Friends and Hammond community members joined together on Thursday night, Jan. 28 for a candlelight vigil to pay their respect and support for the family of Michael “Mike” Brown of Hammond.
By Doris Elmore
The strength of a small community was evident on Thursday night, January 28, when friends and Hammond community members joined together for a candlelight vigil ceremony showing support to the family of Michael “Mike” Brown. The ceremony was organized by Hammond resident and Hammond Booster Club President Angie Parsons.
This small community, located amid Central Illinois farmland, remains in a state of mourning following the untimely death of Brown, 64, at his residence in Hammond in the early morning hours of Tuesday, January 26. Brown was attempting to halt a break-in at his garage when he was shot by the intruders.
As a crowd of approximately 75 people gathered in front of the Hammond Community Building, there was a quiet reverence with friends still trying to wrap their head around this homicide. The group walked to the Brown home nearby where candles were lit. The Brown family stepped out to the porch to acknowledge their friends & neighbors. Misty Appleby of Atwood sang “It Is Well with My Soul” and “Amazing Grace.” The crowd joined in at the end of the last song. Over the past several months there have been several break-ins in Hammond, but nothing so severe as someone being killed.
According to information from the Piatt County Sheriff’s Office and Illinois State Police Division of Criminal Investigation, on January 26 at 3:01 a.m. the Piatt County Sheriff’s Office received a 9-1-1 call from a residence in the Village of Hammond in reference to a male with a gunshot wound.
The Piatt County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene along with an officer from the Monticello Police Department, Hammond Fire Protection District and Lovington Ambulance Service, as well as the Piatt County Coroner’s Office. The 64-year-old male was pronounced dead at the scene.
This incident is being investigated as homicide by the Illinois State Police (ISP) Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), the Piatt County Sheriff’s Office, Piatt County Coroner’s Office and Piatt County States Attorney’s Office.
Police are requesting the public’s assistance in locating a 2017 Ford F150 bearing Illinois registration 101 DN-B Truck plate which was reported stolen from the area. ISP Zone 5 agents are actively tracking down leads to determine the whereabouts of the vehicle. Anyone with information on the vehicle’s location is asked to contact 9-1-1, but do not approach the vehicle.
This incident not only put the entire village in shock, but also affected the Arthur CUSD #305, which includes students from Arthur, Lovington, Atwood and Hammond. School Superintendent Shannon Cheek responded to this reporter with the following statement: “As news of the unimaginable event that occurred in Hammond reached the schools, conversations with the administration began immediately to determine next steps. School counselors were made available for students that were struggling with their emotions and processing the situation.
The Arthur and Atwood police were contacted to determine the immediate threat to the schools to assist in making decisions related to the safety of the students. Finally, the Atwood Police Department extended an invitation to be present when the bus transported the student’s home from Atwood in the afternoon. We are very grateful for the support provided by law enforcement in assisting the Arthur CUSD #305 district in making determinations about the safety of our students. We will continue to provide students the support that they need as they continue to process the situation.”
Atwood Police Chief Rob Bross stated, “On behalf of the Village of Atwood, we want to extend our deepest condolences to the Brown family. Our thoughts are also with the Hammond community for the loss of a respected neighbor and public servant. The Arthur CUSD #305 was very proactive and contacted the Atwood Police Department in regards to the safety of the students in their care. Discussion with school administrators were beneficial and additional plans were set forth for the safety and well being of the students.” Chief Bross continued, “We will do what we can to assist the school district and Hammond community as they process this tragic loss.”
In an update on the Hammond incident late Friday, Jan. 29, Piatt Co. Sheriff David Hunt says that the murder of Brown may be connected to a string of thefts throughout the area, and not isolated to southern Piatt County. He stated, “We do not think the suspects were local. We are working with multiple agencies to try to identify who may be involved in this homicide.”
Sheriff Hunt said it is the only one of the seemingly connected thefts to turn deadly, and for that reason believes Mr. Brown may have surprised the suspects. The sheriff added, “It was a random stop as far as the town being selected, but Hammond was not an isolated incident.
There were other towns involved with small car burglaries and shed burglaries, things like that.” Hunt believe the perpetrators were stealing from cars, garages and sheds, but apparently did not enter homes.
Police are continuing to search for the gray, 2017 Ford F150 (information listed above) stolen in Moultrie County and believed to have been used in Hammond. Those seeing the vehicle should contact 9-1-1, but advised NOT to approach the vehicle.
Sheriff Hunt said Hammond-area residents are also being asked to review any security camera footage from Monday night and Tuesday morning and report any suspicious findings to the Piatt County Sheriff’s police.
Hammond Village President Debby Waldrop issued this statement on behalf of the Village of Hammond, Board of Trustees and Employees, “This has been a devastating time for the Brown family and all of Mike’s friends. We would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the Brown family and all of the Village of Hammond for the loss of such a warm wonderful caring man not only to his family but to everyone who knew Mike. May we all remember him as a great husband, father, son, brother and loving grandfather. Please keep the family in your prayers as we all struggle through this very difficult time.”
While Hammond residents, as well as other area residents, continue to struggle with recent happenings, they are determined to remain “Hammond Strong.”