Norton Shores police chief after deadly crash: ‘We lost a brother in blue’

Officer Jonathan Ginka
An undated courtesy photo of Officer Jonathan Ginka. (Norton Shores Police Department)


NORTON SHORES, Mich. (WOOD) — A 10-year veteran of the Norton Shores Police Department is dead after his cruiser crashed into a tree Wednesday morning.

Norton Shores police confirmed Wednesday afternoon that Officer Jonathan Ginka, 34, died from his injuries.

“We lost a brother in blue,” Norton Shores Police Chief Jon Gale said in a brief news conference Wednesday afternoon.

“He was a highly-decorated veteran and will truly be missed,” he later added.

>>VIDEO: Norton Shores Police chief responds to crash

A nearby resident reported the crash around 2:32 a.m. Wednesday on Henry Street between Ross and Forest Park roads, police said.

Firefighters were called in to free Ginka from the wreckage, police said. Ginka was taken to Mercy Health Muskegon’s Hackley Hospital with severe injuries. He died at the hospital, according to police.

“Jonathan loved serving this community. He continues to serve today by donating his organs to those who need them,” said Gale.

Michigan State Police are handling the crash investigation. MSP Lt. Chris McIntire said they’ve determined Ginka was traveling south on Henry Street when his cruiser veered off the road just south of Ross Road and hit a tree.

McIntire said they’re waiting on reports from the crash reconstructionists and black box recordings from Ginka’s vehicle to figure out what led up to the crash.

Ginka leaves behind a wife and two children, as well as his parents and many friends and family, the police chief said. Longtime officials say Ginka is the first on-duty officer the Norton Shores Police Department has lost.

Ginka was a former North Muskegon firefighter, according to the fire department’s Facebook page. He was a graduate of Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s police academy, according to a Facebook post by instructor Robert Todd Christensen.

“It’s a terrible day and I’m with a broken heart,” Christensen wrote. “You will never be forgotten,” he added.

Norton Shores Police Department closed its offices Wednesday after learning of Ginka’s death. Gale said officers from other agencies will be assisting with police calls for the time being. He encouraged residents with emergencies to call 911 for help.

“At this time, the department, family and community are grieving. We will need some time to process this horrific loss,” said Gale.

Wednesday evening, cruisers with lights flashing escorted Ginka’s body nearly 100 miles from Kalamazoo, where an autopsy was conducted, to a funeral home in Muskegon. A number of law enforcement agencies and first responders were part of the procession.

The procession arrived at Sytsema Funeral Services in Norton Shores just before 7 p.m. A group of first responders gathered outside, standing at attention.

Emotional community members also held flags on the side of the street near the funeral home as the procession passed on Harvey Street.

A makeshift memorial including flowers and a flag was set up at the crash site.

Visitation for Ginka will be held Monday, May 15 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m, at The Lee Chapel, which is located at 6291 S. Harvey Street in Norton Shores. Memorial donations can be made in his name to the Wounded Warriors Project or the Norton Shores Crime Prevention Fund in lieu of flowers.

Ginka’s funeral will be held Tuesday, May 16 at 11 a.m. at Prince of Peace Catholic Church, which is located at 1110 Dykstra Rd. in Laketon Township. His burial will follow at the Laketon Township Cemetery.

***CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated the crash happened around 4:45 a.m. based on a police traffic alert. It also incorrectly stated the crash happened Tuesday morning.We regret these errors, which have since been corrected.***