Slain police officer, EMU alumnus James Bonneau recalled as a committed, caring and diligent student

by Pamela Young, Published March 10, 2010

YPSILANTI - When James Bonneau was a criminal justice student at Eastern Michigan University, he clearly saw his future. After graduating from Eastern in 2006, Bonneau joined the Jackson (Mich.) police force in 2007, fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a police officer.

That dream ended tragically early Tuesday morning, March 9, when Bonneau, 26, was fatally shot by 62-year-old Elvin Potts, while responding to a domestic dispute. Bonneau, who, according to reports, was wearing a bulletproof vest when shot in the chest, died at an area hospital. Another officer, Darrin McIntosh, was shot in the leg, but is expected to recover. Potts was killed.

Those who knew Bonneau at Eastern recalled his intelligence, his work ethic and his sense of humor.

“Jim was a great student, a pleasure to be around and very dedicated to the law enforcement profession,” said Donna Selman, assistant professor of criminology at Eastern. “He was one of our top students and earned an A in every single course he took. He really was one of the good guys.”

While at Eastern, Bonneau worked in the psychology department’s office, answering phones, working with students and handling projects for the faculty and staff.

John Knapp, a psychology professor and former department head, said Bonneau was one of the nicest students he knew and was extremely thorough.

“He was very quiet and had a dry sense of humor,” said Knapp, who interacted with Bonneau for about two years. “He was a really good guy who wanted to be a cop.”

When Bonneau was in town, he would stop by the department to say hi and catch up, Knapp said.

Bonneau was born in Superior Township and grew up in Canton. A 2002 graduate of Canton High School, he attended Schoolcraft College before transferring to Eastern in fall 2004. When Bonneau joined the Jackson police department in 2007, the department sent him to Lansing Community College’s Mid-Michigan Policy Academy.

“Jim’s passion was to be a police officer, and, even as a student, he had that demeanor,” said Khadija Wallace, a secretary in the psychology department. “It’s a sad loss. He was pleasant to work with and was a very intelligent person.”

Dawn Stentzel, a graduate secretary in the psychology department, worked closely with Bonneau.  She first heard about his death that evening on the local 5 p.m. news and couldn’t believe it.

“We’ve had lunch with him a few times and he’d give us the latest as to what was going on at work,” she said. “He was the type of person who should be a cop, and one you’d want to help you. ”

Stentzel said he was mature, even as an undergraduate, and was a big help to everyone in the department. “Jim was also really close to his family and looked out for his brother and sister,” Stentzel said.

The psychology faculty and staff have been reminiscing about their experiences with Bonneau, said Stentzel.

“When I first started in the department, Jim told me about the mountains of filing that hadn’t been done by a previous secretary,” Stentzel said with a laugh. “Then he said he’d help me.”

Visitation for Bonneau is from 1-9 p.m. Thursday, March 11, at the L.J. Griffin Funeral Home, 42600 Ford Road, located west of Lilley Road in Canton. Viewing will be from 9 – 10 a.m. Friday, March 12 at St. Michael Lutheran Church, 7000 Sheldon Road, south of Warren Road. The service begins at 10 a.m.

He is survived by his parents, Marc and Amy; a sister, Emily, and a brother, Peter.

Pamela Young

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