‘His impact was far and wide.’ Remembering star football player, police officer

View Original Notice ? ‘His impact was far and wide.’ Remembering star football player, police officer

SAN JOSE — San Jose Police officers and San Jose State’s football team came to his funeral Saturday in the uniforms and team sweaters that De’Jon Packer once wore as a teammate and a fellow officer.

Family and friends wore white T-shirts and jean jackets with a photo of Packer smiling and holding up a peace sign that read “In Loving Memory of De’Jon Packer” and “Long Live De’Jon.”

In a grand and emotional funeral service at San Jose’s Redemption Church deemed a “Celebration of Life,” they said goodbye to De’Jon Packer, 24, a former San Jose State football standout and San Jose Police officer who was found dead in his Milpitas home earlier this month. The cause of his death is still under investigation.

Police officers and a group called “Soul Brothers California” rode up to the church on motorcycles. San Jose State football players came together in a school-branded bus, and others filled the parking lot.  At the larger-than-life, like Parker’s smile, reception, bright lights shone on the audience from the procession stage. Twelve flower wreaths ranging from white angel wings to red hearts were propped in front of the auditorium stage behind the casket. Photographs of Parker in his police uniform and on the SJSU football field gleamed on a high definition wide screen.

“His impact was far and wide,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told the nearly full auditorium of mourners. “I was there that sunny day in 2021 when he received his badge, and I can’t help but think the impact De’Jon thought that he could have on our community when he swore to protect and serve. He told a reporter that ‘For me it’s about wanting to make a difference for low-income areas and kids who looked like me.’”

Others spoke of the impact Packer had on the San Jose community and the depth of his love, particularly for God. In one scene at the service, Pastor Ervin C. Wilson, Sr. yelled out to the mourners asking who would “respond yes to the love of God,” directing those who agreed to raise their right hands. When hands shot up, he said “Look at God using De’Jon!” — a sentiment that brought cheers from the mourners.

As star running back, Packer worked his way onto the San Jose State Spartans team as a walk-on from San Jose City College in 2018 and in 2019 scored the winning touchdown in a game against Arkansas, the school’s first-ever win against a Southeastern Conference opponent. He always aimed to be the best, they said – on the football field and as a community leader.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo speaks during the celebration of life held for San Jose police officer DeJon Packer at Redemption Church in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, March 26, 2022. (Josie Lepe/Special to The San Jose Mercury News) 

In February 2021, Packer graduated from the police academy and became a rookie in the San Jose Police Department. In an interview back then with the Bay Area News Group, Packer said that as a Black man, he approached his role as a police officer in the community with the aim of bridging gaps in community trust.

On Saturday, the police chief shared a story about another side of Packer: his good-natured sense of humor. At a pickup basketball game at Seven Trees community center, Chief Anthony Mata remembers a group of officers ribbing him over the bygone era of his basketball shoes.

“There was someone saying, ‘Hey look, look at the Chief’s Charles Barkley’s,’” Mata said. “A lot of laughing was going on, and when I looked up to see who said that, no one was laughing. I still believe it was De’Jon who made that comment … since then I bought some KD’s thanks to De’Jon,” he said. The crowd echoed in laughter.

Packer’s sister De’Ja Packer said her brother once called himself “Primetime Packer,” adding that his competitive nature started in childhood, and led him to be a leader in the San Jose community.

She said she wished they had a closer relationship before he died.

“But I would give anything to have another chance at embracing every single moment to spend with him,” she said. “One thing we did share was a passion for life. De’Jon loved to be the center of attention. He had passion for life, a lot of joy and laughter with him everywhere he went. He was a very tenacious little guy — well I should say big guy.”

Packer’s family reminded the community to hold onto their loved ones, and thanked the group for their prayers, outpouring of love, meals and for sharing their stories about Packer.

“He did a lot in his life and he did nothing but show love to everybody, My nephew was so sweet. Just, I mean his hugs,” Tene Packer, his aunt, said at the service. “I’m gonna miss the ‘Hi Auntie, you making some Gumbo?

“I’m going to forever make gumbo in my nephew’s name.”

Staff reporter Robert Salonga contributed to this article.

 

De’Jon’s mom Sonya Steptoe, left, with daughter Deja Packer watch De’Jon’s slideshow of images during the celebration of life held for San Jose police officer DeJon Packer at Redemption Church in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, March 26, 2022. (Josie Lepe/Special to The San Jose Mercury News) 

 

 

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View Original Notice ? ‘His impact was far and wide.’ Remembering star football player, police officer