FRANKLIN - There is an empty spot in the middle of the Franklin Police Department's briefing room, where a pen, a notepad and a coffee mug quietly lay.
This spot honors Kevin Liermann, the Franklin Police Department detective who died unexpectedly March 25, leaving an empty spot in the lives of his family, his co-workers and the Franklin community.
"It’s a big loss," said Detective Jesse Hintz. "It’s a big loss for our department – it’s a bigger loss for us, personally, because he was a good friend, a good genuine friend."
"Kevin was an outstanding detective," added Franklin Police Chief Rick Oliva. "But more importantly, he was an outstanding person."
According to Hintz, Liermann had always wanted to be a police officer in Franklin, just like his brother Craig, who is now a captain. After completing his internship in the department, Liermann was hired as a police officer in 1999, and once on staff, he remained dedicated to serving with perfection.
His work ethic was evident in eventually helping police solve an incident at Kayla's playground that occurred the night before its opening, when an explosion had gone off close to the new park.
"Because of his perfectionism when he processed the initial crime scene, we were able to recover evidence that eventually led to finding out who actually did that," Hintz explained. "If he wouldn't have been there and it wasn’t taken care of in such a diligent matter, we wouldn't have been able to."
Liermann strived to ensure the Franklin community was well taken care of in more ways than one, though. He was instrumental in starting the police department's spaghetti dinner, bringing Shop with a Cop to Franklin, and training both police officers and residents in combat.
"Kevin's passion was making sure people were safe," said Detective Eric Balow, describing how Liermann would always serve as the "punching bag" for the women's self-defense course that the department offers and also during defense and tactical training for police officers. "He would come in battered and bruised from the event the night before, ... but he did it because he wanted to teach people."
When not teaching, Liermann wanted to help people or make them laugh, or both.
Liermann had lovingly adopted the nickname "T-Rex," said Balow, which was given to him because "he had a big head and little arms." His cubicle even featured T-Rex toys and drawings from his daughters, who also adored the nickname.
While the department was celebrating Liermann's life together the weekend of the funeral, Balow said one of the court clerks shared a story about Liermann's helpful spirit, recalling a time when he volunteered to help her scrape the ice off her windshield on a snowy night.
The clerk, who was pregnant at the time, insisted she didn't need help, but Liermann jumped out of his car anyway and started clearing the ice from her windshield with his own, small ice scraper.
Realizing Liermann wasn't taking "no" for an answer, the clerk asked if he wanted to use her ice scraper, since it was longer, and he looked at her and asked, "What is that? A crack about my little arms?"
Liermann was always ready to make someone laugh, even if it was making fun of himself – like when his co-workers would tease him because of his love for "frou-frou" coffee drinks.
Of course, his love for iced lattés was nothing in comparison to his love for his family. Both Balow and Hintz said Liermann was devoted to his wife, Jennifer, and his two daughters, Isabelle, 12, and Emma, 10.
"Kevin always strived and worked to make things a little more perfect, but when it came to his two daughters, they were perfect no matter what they did," said Hintz, adding how he would make a production out of daddy-daughter dances at school by clearing his schedule, dressing up, and taking them out to their favorite restaurants. "I was kind of impressed with him always doing that. He'd say, 'I can’t do anything tonight, I've got date night with my daughter.' "
Though it impacted those close to him the most, the loss of Detective Liermann impacted the whole community, whether or not they personally knew the man.
In the days following his death, which Franklin police announced on the department's Facebook page, many residents switched out the regular light bulbs on the exterior of their homes in favor of bulbs that glowed blue, in Liermann's memory.
And more than 100 people have contributed to the $10,000 currently in Liermann's memorial GoFundMe account, which will go toward the future cost of school for his daughters.
Franklin businesses showed their support, as well. Specifically, Hintz noted Max Sass Funeral Home and Southbrook Church went above and beyond in preparing the funeral service, Gus's Mexican Cantina and Root River Lanes provided space for Liermann's family and the police department to grieve, and Crossroad's Pizza prepared food for other police officers filling in at the station while Franklin's own officers attended the funeral March 31.
Symbols of Liermann's life and impact are strewn all over the city, from half-staff flags to homes hued in blue, proving that a single empty chair – or, rather, the person who once filled it – can make an outstanding difference.