NEW FRANKLIN, OH – It’s the first day of school for kids at Turkeyfoot Elementary in New Franklin, and one little girl is being escorted to class by some very special people.
"The brothers in blue said they will keep a close eye on Charlee for the rest of her life since Justin can't, and obviously when I can't keep an eye on her, these guys all want to take their part,” said Rob Winebrenner.
He’s Justin Winebrenner's father and Charlee’s grandfather.
Justin was an Akron Police officer who died last year. He was shot and killed by a gunman while he was off-duty. He was only 32-years-old.
"I'm upset that Charlee lost her dad. That Kelly lost her brother. I'm upset that hundreds of these guys lost a best friend. That upsets me,” he said. “That makes me mad. That's where I hold my anger, but as a father... I'm a proud father."
Winebrenner said it’s been tough for the family, but they take comfort in knowing that little Charlee has all these police officers looking after her.
"Charlee is my niece and when I got the call from Rob, he asked if we could come out and help support Charlee. As you can see there were so many police departments here,” said Kevin Evans.
Charlee’s mother Alyse Shanafelt said she loved seeing the guys line up on the sidewalk and cheer as Charlee walked into the school.
She said it’s a memory she’ll never forget.
"I thought it was great. This is a really emotional time for me anyways, but I know that they will always be there for her. It helps knowing that even though I don't have her father to go to, I have all of these guys standing behind me,” said Shanafelt.
Winebrenner said he couldn’t agree more and is thankful for everyone’s support.
"They represent Justin. They're here for him and that's their promise and I don't think they'll ever break that promise,” he said.