An Illinois state trooper who helped investigate the Willow Long case in Effingham County was killed in the line of duty in East St. Louis on Friday.

Nicholas Hopkins of the ISP South SWAT team will be laid to rest Sunday, Sept. 1, in his hometown of Waterloo.

The 33-year-old, 10-year ISP veteran served with ISP District 12 in Effingham, starting in 2009 after he graduated from the Illinois State Police Academy. Hopkins had graduated from the Cadet Class 117 and then was later assigned to Zone 7 General Criminal Investigations in Effingham from Sept. 1, 2013, to Nov. 15, 2013.

On Aug. 23 at approximately 5:26 a.m., Hopkins and other troopers were executing a warrant at a home in the 1400 block of North 42nd St. in East St. Louis when Hopkins was critically injured in an exchange of gunfire. Hopkins was transported to a local hospital, where he succumbed to life-threatening injuries that evening.

District 12 Commander Cpt. Cory Ristvedt said in his time with District 12, Hopkins was assigned to patrol duties and also served with the criminal investigation sector.

“Hopkins was assigned to the ISP Zone Seven Investigations General Criminal Effingham Office, where conducted criminal investigations,” Ristvedt said. “During his time in General Criminal Investigations, he was assigned to assist with the homicide investigation of Willow Long.”

Ristvedt described Hopkins as a “self-motivated” trooper who always had a smile on his face. He said Hopkins genuinely enjoyed serving the citizens of Illinois and was a great officer and “more importantly, a wonderful human being.”

Hopkins had a big personality to match his big smile, and he made his co-workers at District 12 laugh every day, Ristvedt said. Hopkins was more than just a skilled trooper; he was quite the handyman, too.

“Myself and many others were always in awe of his master carpentry skills,” Ristvedt said. “During his time in District 12, he resided in rural Clark County near Marshal with his wife, Whitney. He built his own home in Clark County.”

Ristvedt said Hopkins chose to transfer to metro-east area in November 2013 so he and his wife could be closer to family in that area. Hopkins served in District 11 as a patrol officer in Collinsville, and in 2016, he was transferred to the Zone Six Metro East Police Assistance Team.

Hopkins joined the ISP SWAT in September 2017 and became a senior agent with ISP in March 2018.

In the days following Hopkins’ murder, Chris R. Grant, 45, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the case. Grant is being held at the St. Clair County Jail.

In a statement released Monday, the Hopkins family extended their thanks to ISP, ISP SWAT, the city of Waterloo, the medical staff at St. Louis University Hospital and those who have provided love and support.

“Words cannot convey the pain of the loss and the emptiness in our hearts. Words also fail to describe the lasting impact Nick had on the lives of everyone who knew him,” the family said in the statement. “Nick will live on through memories we cherish and in how we emulate his passion for life.”

Hopkins is survived by his wife, children twins Evelyn and Owen and their sibling Emma, his parents and many relatives.

The visitation for Hopkins will be Saturday, Aug. 31, from 3 to 9 p.m. at Waterloo High School at 505 E. Bulldog in Waterloo. A first responder walk through will begin at 6 p.m.

Hopkins’ funeral will be held the following day at 10 a.m. at the same location. Interment services are still being finalized.

Donations can be made to the Hopkins family at the ISP Heritage Foundation website www.isphf.org/donations or by mail to the foundation to P.O. Box 8168, Springfield, 62791. On the website, include “Trooper Nick Hopkins Memorial Fund” in the comments section.

Ristvedt said Hopkins will also be honored with his name on a memorial wall at the ISP Memorial Park in Springfield.

“His friends throughout District 12 will miss him, and we are praying for his family,” Ristvedt said.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.

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