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Investigation continues as Officer Ginka laid to rest

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: May 22, 2017

— Excerpted from media reports

Norton Shores Police Officer Jonathan Ginka was laid to rest following an honor guard funeral May 16 which included hundreds of officers and civilians, but the investigation into the cause of his death continues.

Ginka was traveling south on Henry Street just south of Ross Road when his cruiser crossed over the northbound lane, left the road and struck a tree, according to police. His vehicle was traveling 46 mph and didn’t brake until the last second, according to a news release from the Michigan State Police. Ginka died as a result of the crash reported at 2:32 a.m. May 10. According to the release, preliminary findings from the investigation, which included analysis of data recorders in the patrol cruiser, are as follows:

•    Speed was not a factor in the crash. The speed limit is 35 mph on that stretch of roadway.
•    Ginka was wearing his seatbelt.
•    Ginka took his foot off the accelerator and applied the brake just prior to the collision with the tree.
•    His vehicle left the road and traveled 145 feet, taking 2 seconds, before hitting the tree.
•    Ginka was not responding to a dispatch call at the time of the crash.

The 34-year-old was extricated from his cruiser before being transported to Mercy Health Partners Hackley Campus where he was pronounced dead. The roof and door had to be removed to free Ginka, the news release states.

Investigation into the crash continues. Autopsy information is not expected to be available until the end of May.

Courtesy of Norton Shores Police Department                                                                         Norton Shores Police Officer Jonathan Ginka died in a single vehicle crash.

Norton Shores Command and Patrol are represented by POLC Labor Representatives John Stidham and Jason Owen. “The Police Officers Labor Council wishes to extend our deepest sympathy to the family of Officer Ginka and to the Norton Shores Police Department,” said POLC Director Rob Figurski. “The tragic loss of Officer Jonathan Ginka affects every member of the POLC and he will remain in our thoughts and prayers. Officer Ginka will never be forgotten.”

His brothers and sisters in blue came together with his loved ones to plan his funeral which included bag pipes and a large procession of police motorcycles and cruisers from throughout the state escorting the hearse containing Ginka’s casket to Laketon Township Cemetery.

The Sheriff’s and Municipal Memorial Assistance Response Team (SMMART), an initiative of the Michigan Sheriff’s Association, arrived in Norton Shores the morning of Ginka’s crash and worked practically around the clock to organize the hundreds of law enforcement officers coming to the fallen officer’s funeral, said Terrrence L. Jungel, former sheriff of Ionia County and retired executive director of the sheriff’s association. “It’s an honor for us to be able to do this,” Jungel said. “When we bleed, we all bleed blue. When there’s a tragedy in the family, we all come together.”

Officers stood in formation, white-gloved hands folded in front of them in the Prince of Peace Catholic Church parking lot in Laketon Township. Detroit Police and Fire Pipes and Drums began a bagpipe procession with members of Ginka’s department leading other officers into the service. “He was a great guy and I love him and miss him,” said Officer Matt VanHall of the St. Louis (Mich.) Police Department, who has known Ginka for the past 8 years. “Everyone loved him.”

“(Ginka) never hesitated to extend his hands to people around him, especially the ones in need,” the Rev. Peter Vu said in his homily.

Ginka graduated from fire school in 2005 and began his public safety career with the North Muskegon Fire Department. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Grand Valley State University, following the path of his brother, Patrick, a Military Police Officer. Ginka served with Norton Shores Police for the past 10 years. His career, though short, was marked with awards and a desire to serve, said Norton Shores Police Chief Jon Gale at the funeral. “I want to thank Jonathan for his service,” Gale said.

Working as an undercover drug enforcement officer with West Michigan Enforcement Team, Ginka looked like a tough guy, but was remembered for his sense of humor, love of community and family. “He always had a smile on his face and a big heart,” said Muskegon County Sheriff Michael Poulin. “He was a real likable individual and well-respected in the law enforcement community.”

In 2006, Ginka married his wife, Tricia Michalski, and they had two daughters. He found the long and unpredictable hours of undercover work was taking too much time from his family, said North Muskegon Fire Chief Steve Lague, who considers himself Ginka’s mentor. About a year ago, he went back on road patrol and was working the overnight shift when the crash occurred. “His girls were his number one,” Lague said. “I’m just so proud of his career, and broken hearted for his family and his two girls.”

Patrick Ginka described his brother as a “fiercely loyal” man who never complained. “You’d be hard pressed to hear him say anything bad about anyone,” Patrick said during the funeral. “And you’d be harder pressed to find someone with anything negative to say about Jon.”

The seven-mile funeral procession down Ruddiman Drive included adults and school children lining the street holding flags from North Muskegon High School/Middle School complex where Ginka graduated and the school district where his daughters are enrolled. Scores of police cruisers passed under a giant American flag suspended from White Lake and Muskegon Township ladder fire trucks at the entrance of the cemetery.

“I don’t think a lot of them have processed it,” said North Muskegon High School/Middle School Principal Ken Byard. “I think this will help the process, start the process for a lot of them.” He said the school would provide counselors and other support for students trying to understand the death. Officer Ginka was influenced by the school’s liason officer, who allowed him to do ride alongs as a recent high school grad. “Officer Ginka’s very ingrained in the North Muskegon Community, that’s for sure,” Superintendent Curt Babcock said.

Area residents who have friends and family in public safety came out to honor Ginka. “Both my daughters knew him, and I have a lot of friends in the police force,” said Laketown Township resident Sue Kuharevicz.

Grand Rapids resident Pat Batka has a few friends working in Grand Rapids law enforcement. “It’s scary what they have to go through,” he said. “Much respect for them, that’s for sure.”

As bagpipes and drums played, Norton Shores Police Honor Guard walked alongside, hands on the hearse as it made its way to the grave site. Following a short graveside ceremony, three rifle volleys were shot and a bugler played “Taps.” A Michigan State Police helicopter flew over the cemetery and the American flag draping Ginka’s casket was folded by the honor guard and presented to his family. And then it was time for the final call. A police dispatcher called out a status check three times for Norton Shores Unit 425. When no response came back, she gave the “final call” for Officer Jonathan William Raymond Ginka, badge no. 47384. “He gave of himself, serving his community with courage and valor,” the dispatcher said. “The men and women of the Norton Shores Police Department are forever grateful and proud to have served with Officer Ginka. We shall never forget his ultimate sacrifice. Officer Ginka is now secure from his tour of duty … He may be gone but he will never be forgotten. Officer Ginka, rest in peace sir, rest in peace.”

Officer Ginka is survived by his wife, Tricia Michalski and his daughters Allison and Keira; his parents Steven “Will” and Marcia (Meloche) Ginka; his brother, Patrick (Amber) Ginka; special niece, Zari and special twin nephews, Jack and Will; grandparents, Raymond and Liz Meloche, Baba Ginka; in-laws, Mike and Barbara Michalski; chocha and godmother, Mary Ginka; along with many aunts, uncles, cousins and friends and his family in blue.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorials in Officer Jonathan Ginka’s name be directed to the Norton Shores Crime Prevention Fund or the Wounded Warriors Project.

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