Nearly a week after a 17 year veteran with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was killed in a single-car crash, support continues to grow for the family of Officer Lance Whitaker.
While gazing at a wall containing photos of fallen Jacksonville police officers, Charles Shinholser, with Northeast Florida Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), understands firsthand the pain Officer Whitaker’s family is experiencing.
“I learned a long time ago if you want to help yourself, help somebody else,” Shinholser said. “That’s what we do every day.”
Shinholser’s son was a sergeant with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. He was killed in a motorcycle crash in 1988. He said C.O.P.S. was there for his family in their time of need.
C.O.P.S. hosts events like retreats for officers’ spouses, children and co-workers each year to give them a circle of people dealing with the same issues.
“We are all one bonded family. We are a group of people that — all of us have lost an officer in the line of duty. We all know how to reach out to other people,” Shinholser said.
Shinholser has met with some of Whitaker’s family to provide them support.
Retired JSO Sergeant Jeffery Lentz is also supporting the Whitaker family through his fishing charter, the Thin Blue Line Fishing Company. The company has partnered with Expert T’s and Heritage Casual Wear to make shirts honoring Officer Whitaker.
“Everybody feels it, everybody suffers from it, everybody feels terrible over it,” Lentz said. “The officer’s family — they need emotional support, but also financial support.”
The shirts are being sold online through midnight Saturday for $25. All of the profits go to Whitaker’s family.
Whitaker will be laid to rest on Wednesday. He will receive full honors from the JSO Honor Guard.