The mother of fallen police Officer Ella French sent a thank you note to Chicago on Tuesday, nearly two weeks after hundreds honored her daughter's life at a private funeral service and on the day that would have been Officer French's 30th birthday.
"My family and I wish to say THANK YOU to the people of the City of Chicago and the surrounding communities," Elizabeth French wrote in a letter distributed by CPD. "We wish to thank all the women and men of the Chicago Police Department, those special people of the Special Activities Division of CPD, and all the women and men in law enforcement near and far.
"We wish to thank Chicago dispatcher Keith Thornton, Jr., the CPD chaplains, Fr. Brandt, and Cardinal Cupich. We wish to thank Milos Djordjevic of Caring Cremations, all the wonderful people and students of St. Rita of Cascia, and the staff of Queen of Heaven Cemetery. We wish to thank all friends, old and new, and we wish to thank the many faces and names of people who remain unknown to us.
"Your beautiful and heartfelt words of comfort, prayers, and donations will be remembered forever. More importantly, your love and support during this difficult time will be a treasure I carry with me for the rest of my life.
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"I wish it was possible to thank each and every one of you personally. I will try where I can. Please accept this humble letter of thanks to all of you from a grateful mother. I am so blessed. Ella is so honored.
"God bless you all," the letter ends, with a signature from Elizabeth French and a post script: "P.S. Happy Birthday Ella Grace! I love you. Mom"
Officer French was killed after she and her partner were shot during a late-night traffic stop in the city's West Englewood neighborhood. Police said three officers stopped a car with three people inside near 63rd Street and Bell for expired plates.
When the officers approached the car, one of the vehicle’s occupants opened fire, according to authorities. French was shot in the head and her partner was also shot.
French joined the department in April 2018, according to police officials. She is the first Chicago police officer to be killed in the line of duty since officers Conrad Gary and Eduardo Marmalejo were struck and killed by a Metra train while responding to a call of shots fired in December 2018. She is the first female officer to be killed in the city since 1988.
French, a young officer who made a big impact during her short time on the force, was remembered during her funeral service for her empathy, compassion and determination.
"She was loud, fun and outgoing," her partner Josh Blas, one of two officers with French during the traffic stop that took her life, said. "She always loved getting to know people and talking to them. She was bubbly and always smiling. She genuinely loved people."
Once a foster child who was adopted into her family, French dedicated her spare time to fostering dogs and helping animals to give back in a way that mirrored her own journey.
Speaking directly to her mother during his homily at the service, Cardinal Blase Cupich recalled a conversation in which Elizabeth French described the empathy her daughter exuded not just in her work, but also in her life.
"Elizabeth, you told me when we met that Ella always understood herself as a work in progress, how her experience especially as a corrections officer with Cook County, made her a better human being because it helped her develop an empathy for others," he said. "It was her empathy that prompted her to rush a 1-year-old baby and her mother on her own to a hospital, something she no doubt was encouraged to do as she witnessed the example of her fellow officers. It was her ability to connect with others that taught her compassion, empathy and responsibility for others."
The streets outside Officer French's funeral service flooded with squad cars and mourners as the church filled to capacity.