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Wauwatosa Officer Jennifer Sebena Laid to Rest

Law enforcement officers and firefighters from across Wisconsin pay their respects to fallen officer – the first to die in the line of duty in the nearly 100-year history of the Wauwatosa Police Department.

A seemingly endless procession of police squad cars departed Elmbrook Church in Brookfield on Saturday afternoon, escorting the body of Wauwatosa Police Officer Jennifer Sebena to her final resting place in Wisconsin Memorial Park.

The shields, emblems and logos represented law enforcement departments from across the state.

At the church, two solid phalanxes of visiting officers, each more than a dozen ranks wide and deep, formed in front of an honor guard to pay their respects to the officer who was killed on duty on Christmas Eve. Then, to the keening of bagpipes, they watched as the men and women of the Wauwatosa Police Department filed out to form a third.

At a shout of "Attention!" the officers in their hundreds raised their right hands in a salute, and Sebena's casket was borne out by six Oak Creek officers in dress uniforms.

Just before her funeral service began, all those officers had come forward through the center aisle of the sanctuary, two by two, and raised their hands in the same fashion, but more slowly and solemnly, over the flag-draped casket.

Last to do so was Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber, who stood alone with her a moment before taking his seat.

Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, Milwaukee County Exectutive Chris Abele and Wauwatosa Mayor Kathy Ehley, among many other dignitaries, attended.

In the service, Sebena was remembered by her friend and colleague on the force, Officer Tracy Burbach, who called her one of the most promising young officers anyone on the force had ever met.

"Jennifer was a little nervous when she out on her first duty shift," Burbach said, "but I told her that during her 14 months of field training she'd had the best Wauwatosa had to offer."

Photo gallery: Images from the funeral service

One of her training officers, Burbach said, told her that after working with Sebena, he expected she would be promoted to higher rank before long – and that he'd be working for her.

"Captain Sutter even said we might have a Chief Sebena one day," Burbach said.

Burbach fought back tears as she read Psalm 16 – the passage to which Sebena kept a Bible open in her police locker. It begins: "Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge...."

Elmbrook minister Stuart Briscoe delivered a moving eulogy, in which he sought for answers to the kind of violence that had taken a young and valued life – concluding that American society is in need of "a heart transplant" – from one of stone to one of flesh, as he said God promised through Ezekiel.

"Tragedy upon tragedy," he said after relating the grim circumstances of Sebena's death, "Two families torn apart."

However, Briscoe said, "even in darkness there are shafts of light."

Those two families – that of Jennifer and her husband Benjamin, who is charged with her murder – had united in their grief and in mutual support, in full forgiveness and without recrimination.

And both families, he said – despite their grief – had heaped praise on the officers of the Wauwatosa Police Department for their service and for the concern and compassion they had shown in the investigation.

Exactly the sort of compassion all of them had seen in Jennifer Sebena.

Said Burbach: "Farewell our sister in blue. We have your watch from here."

michelle December 29, 2012 at 10:46 PM
My prayers are with you. Through this hard time.
alt ideas needed December 29, 2012 at 11:02 PM
very nicely written Mr. Price. so sad, Wauwatosa wears a heavy heart this holiday season.
Jim Price December 29, 2012 at 11:10 PM
I am going to leave comments turned on for this story, in the hope that those who wish to share their thoughts respectively – as michelle and alt ideas have done – may do so. I would ask that this be reserved as a place for honor and remembrance.
Heather Asiyanbi (Editor) December 29, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Thoughts and prayers with Officer Sebena's family, including her fellow officers. This is a really well-written story that captures perfectly the sights, sounds and tone of the day.
J Hanrahan December 30, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Beautifully written, thank you for helping us who couldn't make it. I'll always remember this holiday with sadness, wishing against reality Officer Sabena could have found help to leave before such horror.
sandy messenger December 30, 2012 at 03:48 AM
May you rest in peace Officer Sebena,God Speed my Sister.Our thoughts and Prayers to your Family and your work Family.You will never be forgotten.Rest easy,we've got the watch now........
Toni Araiza December 30, 2012 at 04:33 AM
R.I.P. Officer Jennifer Lynn Sebena. Your watch in the physical sense may be over, but not in spirit. The memory of you, your purpose, determination, ambition and honor for the community you served, will be respected and honored. We do appreciate that our policemen and women in our community work under a dangerous and strenous job description. And, it's incumbent that we citizens not make their tasks more difficult than it has to be. A Tosa Resident
KF December 30, 2012 at 04:53 AM
My family and I stood a cold, lonely vigil on Capitol Dr as the funeral procession passed. The cold, sad feelings we had could only be a microcosm of the pain the families feel. We are sorry for your loss and we are proud of the legacy Officer Sebena has left behind.
Denise Konkol (Editor) December 31, 2012 at 03:10 AM
The outpouring of support among all of the law enforcement personnel from so many departments underscores how all officers and their families face a possibility of not making it home once the shift is done. My prayers and gratitude to all who serve.
precious stewart January 13, 2013 at 07:18 PM
Rest in peace may god bless ur soul u are still a beautiful person here on earth an in heaven god bless u and ur family

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