Aurora pauses to honor fallen police officers
In the more than 90 years since losing two officers in the line of duty, the Aurora Police Department has never forgotten their sacrifice.
On Saturday, the department once again paid tribute to those fallen officers and all the men and women, past and present, who protect communities across the country.
"We mourn for all the police officers in Illinois and across our nation who didn't make it home," Chief Kristen Ziman said during the department's 22nd annual Police Week memorial service.
"When an officer's life is taken, a part of us dies with him or her," Ziman said. "And yet, our officers show up every day and continue to be guardians for this city and the citizens they serve."
The service outside the department's headquarters included a proclamation reading by Deputy Mayor Chuck Nelson, who said the event was an opportunity for the community to come together to acknowledge the service of the Aurora police.
"A defining moment is best described as a point in your life when you're urged to make a pivotal decision," Nelson said. "For law enforcement and our fire service professionals, your defining moment begins when you report to duty."
Nelson took time to recognize the families of the current and former Aurora police officers.
"There's always a need to have police officers on the street," Nelson said. "But that does come at a cost. And I know that there's significant inconveniences when there's Christmas and Thanksgiving and birthday parties and all sorts of athletic events that you can't attend because you're on the shift.
"So to the families, please know that we are just as grateful for your service and your sacrifice as well," he said.
Also honored were six retired Aurora officers who died in the past year -- Lts. Norman Perkins and Donald McDonald, Sgts. Duane Such and David Gumz, and officers John Saltijeral and Frank Mexin.
Plaques were presented to their families during the service.
Officials then shared the stories of the only two Aurora police officers killed in the line of duty -- Alfred Olin and Thompson Richardson.
Olin died in 1918 when a suspect in an auto theft investigation shot him twice. He served on the police force for seven years.
Richardson also was investigating an auto theft when he was killed in 1928.
While escorting two suspects to the police station, Richardson was shot by one of them in the abdomen. Richardson still managed to fire at the suspects, hauling one into the police station where they both collapsed. The six-year veteran of the force died two days later.
"Alfred Olin and Thompson Richardson gave the ultimate sacrifice for this community, this police department and this honorable profession," Ziman said. "We didn't know them, but we know their stories and we know their sacrifice."
In addition, the names of 11 employees who retired this year were unveiled on the service wall affixed to the headquarters building. The wall honors those who served at least 20 years with the department.
"The names of our retirees that were unveiled on our wall today will forever be a symbol of their contribution to this police department," Ziman said. "They are now literally etched in stone as a reminder to all of us that the most important thing that we have is the legacy we leave behind."
The observance featured the department's Honor Guard and Pipes and Drums. It concluded with the lowering of the flag, a three-volley salute and the playing of taps.