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Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student

IUPD Chief Cash 'home for the final time'

Keith Cash

An urn bearing the IU emblem rested on a table below the auditorium stage. Between the American and Indiana flags was the police chief’s official department photo.

On the podium above him, there was a can of Foster’s beer.

At 4 p.m., police officers filed in to the sound of a bagpipe. They were dressed in their formal uniforms, distinctive to their rank and department. Some wore black uniforms with flat caps, and others wore brown sheriff’s attire or navy dress pants with short-sleeved shirts.

They walked down the aisle and in front of the stage, filing into the rows, while the audience behind them stood, watching silently.

The officers stopped behind their seats as the rest filed in. They stood with their backs to the stage. In the overhead lights, their different badges twinkled on their chests.

Taped across their badges were strips of black cloth, matte against the gleaming gold or silver.

All had entered and the bagpipe stopped, replaced by ringing silence.

No one so much as coughed or moved. Then came the sound of whispered counting.

A group of officers filed past. The first held an American flag, folded into a triangle. The second carried the urn, embossed with the red-and-white IU emblem. Four officers followed behind them, one keeping time.

As they walked past, the hundreds of standing officers saluted.

In the back row, one officer removed his hat and bowed his head. His face crumpled as he began to cry.

This service was the final time they would salute IU Police Department Chief Keith Cash.

Friends and family from around the world gathered Monday to attend the Celebration of Life service for Keith, who died suddenly Wednesday. 

During the service, family and friends spoke. They told stories about the pranks that Keith pulled, many times laughing through tears.

One speaker brought a beer for Keith — a Foster’s — which he opened and left on the podium. The audience applauded the gesture.

Mike Diekhoff, Bloomington chief of police and Keith’s longtime friend, was one of the speakers. He had a request for the audience.

“I ask that you remember Keith not only as an exceptional person,” he said. “But that you also remember his laugh.”

***

Judy Cash is a woman in her seventies whose height barely clears 5 feet.

As soon as people meet her, they know she’s the one who gave Keith his noticeably short stature.

She said whenever she came to visit, people would come up to Keith to say hello, and he would introduce her.

“Keith would say, ‘This is my mom, and now you know where I got my height,’” Judy said.

As she recounts the story, she smiles. But soon, she swallows, and her face changes as she seems to remember.

Keith grew up in Jeffersonville, Ind., near Louisville, Ky., where Judy still lives. His father, Tom, lives in Floyds Knobs, Ind. He has three brothers — Mike and Steve, who are older, and a younger brother David, who died from cancer at age 14.

This is the second time Judy has buried a child.

In the past couple years after retiring from her job as a third grade teacher, Judy came to visit Keith frequently.

She said one of Keith’s favorite things to do was cook, and that during holidays, she would help him bake pumpkin bread in coffee tins for all of his IUPD coworkers.

“He said, ‘Mom, teach me how to make the pumpkin bread. I think that’s what I’m going to give the people I work with,’” Judy said. “Every year we would improve a little bit. So one year we got up there and he was in the kitchen, and he said, ‘I’ve got this down pat.’ And he had bought one of those huge mixers. And he said, ‘You don’t have to do anything, except when it cools you wrap it and put a ribbon on it!’”

Judy laughed at the memory.

“He was so proud of himself,” she said.

Steve Cash is Keith’s older brother, and they went to school together for a time in college, at IU.

He said Keith’s sense of humor was one of his most distinguishing traits.

“A friend of mine used to be a photographer for the Lafayette paper,” Steve said. “That year I told Keith,  ‘This guy Tom will be down on the field ... Go back down and tell him that you want to see his credentials, that something didn’t check out and you were going to throw him out.’ And Tom knew I had a brother, but he had not met him at that point.”

This time, Steve laughed.

“He just scared Tom to death,” he said.

The IUPD officers also recounted tales of Keith’s sense of humor.

Jerry Minger, a man of towering height with a bushy gray mustache, is the director of public safety for IU and was on the interview board to select Keith as chief in 2010. He and Keith remained close during the years.

Minger said Keith would text people during meetings.

“You could see around the room sometimes, he would sit there and he’d text little things about the topic being discussed or the person who was talking or stuff like that,” Minger said. “So you’re trying to sit there, trying to maintain some kind of decorum and respect for the kind of meeting that you’re in while he’s firing these humorous messages at you.”

Tom Lee, captain of IUPD, said Keith would even make fun of himself.

“He had a friend who I guess is a dog groomer or has something to do with animals,” he said. “And it was Christmas time, and he was given what he thought was candy for him ... until he’d eaten one of the chocolate suckers and realized the stick was rawhide and it wasn’t paper or wood or something. But I mean he literally told people about that, about himself. So he didn’t have any preconceived notions of grandeur.”

Minger said the humor helped those at IUPD stay grounded.

“He used this kind of diffusing humor or levity, but his use was very strategic, because sometimes it’s a real hard thing, to use that kind of tool,” Minger said. “If it was a discussion that was getting a little too serious or stressful, he would use it to break for people to reflect on what really was going on.”

Keith’s brother Steve said IUPD was a perfect fit for Keith.

During college, Keith bought his first German shepherd — a breed of dog that Keith would come to love. As Keith said, every police officer should have one, and from that point on, he always would.

Keith leaves behind his current dog, Alibi, a German shepherd.

At this time, it’s unclear where the dog will go, although Steve said many people have offered to take her, though his family can’t.

“Keith would hate to have her removed from Bloomington,” Judy said. “After high school, Bloomington’s it. I don’t think he would really ever retire anywhere else.”
IUPD had grown to be Keith’s family away from home."

“I think he really lived IUPD,” said Laury Flint, the interim chief of police for IUPD. “This was his family, and this was what he liked to do. I know for a fact he’d get called day and night. He did not mind that at all.”

Judy and Steve said since Keith’s death, IUPD has been great about reaching out to them and the rest of their family.

“We knew why everybody liked him — now we know why he liked all the people, because they’ve been so nice,” Judy said, her voice breaking near the end.
Steve nodded. “Like a real family.”

***

On Wednesday, Keith didn’t come to work. He wasn’t feeling well.

Coworkers said the absence was unusual for him.

Flint, a short officer with blonde hair in a ponytail, grew up in IUPD with Keith. Keith had been there 29 years, and she’s been there for 31. They started as cadets in the student cadet program and worked their way up.

For Keith and most IUPD officers, work is a 24/7 job. Friends said Keith was always working, even when doing other things. Minger said coworkers would get emails from Keith time-stamped at three in the morning because he worked so much.

“We had a staff meeting scheduled at 2:30, and he did not show up for the staff meeting,” Flint said.

For several weeks, Keith had been feeling as if he had the flu. During the staff meeting, he called Lee.

“He had called me in the meeting and said, ‘Hey, when you’re done with the staff meeting, can you give me a call?’” Lee said. “My wife’s a nurse practitioner, and he wasn’t established with a family doctor, so he said, ‘Do you think she could see me today?’”

Lee said she could, so he picked Keith up and drove him to the Internal Medicine Associates. On the drive over, Lee said Keith was joking and in good spirits.

“In there he was joking with the staff, and he was joking until they decided that he needed to be transported to the emergency department,” Lee said.

Lee asked him then, “Do you want me to go with you?”

Keith said no and said he had been feeling dehydrated. He said he expected they’d give him some fluids and release him.

However, he did ask Lee to do one thing.

“He actually called me from the hospital, to tell me he’d left his coat,” Lee said, shaking his head. “He asked me if I’d get it for him, and I said I would.”

While Lee went to get Keith’s coat, Minger headed to the hospital to be with Keith so that Keith would know someone was there with him.

Before Lee could bring Keith his coat, he got a call.

“The director called me from the hospital,” Lee said. “Then he called me back and said he’d passed.”

He had died of a heart defect he’d had his whole life but that had only now surfaced.

The doctors notified the family, and Flint called in all officers on duty to tell them what had happened in person. For those she couldn’t tell in person, she emailed.

Lee also headed back to the IUPD headquarters, and he said he wasn’t alone.

“Everybody came to the station,” he said. “I mean, third shift comes on at roll calls at 11 p.m., and people started showing up at like 9, two hours early.” 

Flint said they gave officers the chance to take the night off if they felt they could not continue working.

“No one went home,” she said. “Everybody stayed and worked through their shift.”

***

Outside the auditorium Monday, snow fell as a hundred officers lined up in rows leading to the entrance doors. The snow stuck to their caps and their breath condensed in clouds in the cold air. They all stood stock-still.

At the top of the steps, a figure appeared in the open doors.

Judy stood there, clutching the flag to her chest. Steve stood to her right, his hand on her arm to help her balance. An officer stood on her left. Together, the trio passed by the hundreds of officers who had assembled to remember Keith.

At the end of the service, the family had addressed the audience of more than 300. Steve spoke on behalf of them all.

“He had a family down here,” his brother said, looking around at the audience, “and a family that cared for him as much as we did.”

As she descended the steps outside, Judy started to cry. The rest of their family followed behind them, including Steve’s son and Keith’s nephew, Wyatt, who also spoke during the ceremony.

“The first thing my grandma said to me after we heard of his death was, ‘We lost our buddy,’” Wyatt said. “And I replied, ‘He wasn’t just our buddy. He was everyone’s buddy.’”

The family reached the end of the steps, and Judy was helped into the processional car waiting for her. The police officers broke their stance and headed to their own patrol cars.

The line of cars, stretching for several blocks, drove to Indiana Avenue and then up to 17th Street. At 17th and Woodlawn Avenue, the cars streamed beneath an American flag stretched between two fire trucks.

When they reached IUPD, dispatch sent out the final call over the radio for all officers to hear.

“This is dispatch,” the officer said, “and he’s gone home for the final time.”
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