Memorial for fallen officers, firefighters
|(ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo.) -- The widow of slain officer Richard Weinhold said he always attended memorial services and breakfasts for his fallen colleagues. |
Kevin Stevener was lucky. Sgt. Richard Weinhold was not. Stevener and Weinhold sacrificed heavily for the people of St. Louis County, and for that they were honored Wednesday on a day that included the unveiling of life-sized statutes of a police officer and a firefighter in tribute to the dangerous lines of work.
Stevener, a police officer, was seriously wounded in September trying to stop a killing. Weinhold was killed last week in north St. Louis County.
"This is exactly what Rick would like," his widow, Julie Weinhold, said in an interview Wednesday afternoon before the ceremony in Clayton. "All this attention and honor."
Stevener was among 18 police officers honored in a ceremony at a County Police Board meeting earlier Wednesday.
Said Stevener, "I'll just remember Rick and all his words of wisdom. I realize I got lucky in a situation and it just happened to work out."
At the later ceremony, water bubbled up over the surface of the memorial's 15 square, black granite slabs at South Central Avenue near county police headquarters in the heart of Clayton. It is dedicated to the 46 police officers and 11 firefighters who have died in the line of duty in St. Louis County.
Richard Weinhold, 44, was the most recent. He was shot to death Oct. 31 by a man described by police as a squatter who had locked himself inside a house. Julie Weinhold, the mother of four young children, was suddenly a widow.
Stevener was shot Sept. 26 after answering a report of "shots fired" at a house in Bel-Ridge.
As he arrived, officials said, a man shot two women on the front lawn, killing one and seriously injuring the other. Stevener and the killer exchanged shots and Stevener was hit in the shoulder with 37 shotgun pellets.
Still recovering, he said he has developed his own ways of healing.
He has driven by the shooting scene a couple of times, "to try to get over that hurdle." He said he tries not to dwell on similarities between his shooting and the killing of Weinhold, who had been a mentor. "I'm kind of numb to the whole situation," he told a reporter.
Julie Weinhold said she stays strong with the help of her faith, her family, the department and friends.
Two of Sgt. Weinhold's closest friends, county Detective Kevin Cavanaugh and Maryland Heights Officer Joe Stanley, were detached from their duties to help her family. Police in St. Peters, where the Weinhold family lives, have put an extra watch on the home.
Outsiders have drawn close as well. The Hair Studio Ltd. in St. Peters gave the family free haircuts for the funeral. The Chuck E Cheese's restaurant in St. Charles gave the kids the rule of the place one day. Hundreds of officers turned out Saturday for Weinhold's funeral.
"My joke is that when I get to heaven, (Rick's) going to ask me how big his funeral was," said Julie Weinhold, smiling.
In a way, it wasn't difficult to turn out for Wednesday's ceremony, she said. Her husband always attended memorial breakfasts and services for fallen officers. She remembered how he would always fold the program neatly and place it inside his hat, so when he wore it he would remember.
Hundreds of police and firefighters in dress uniforms stood in neat rows at the memorial dedication despite cold rain. Parts of the scene - buglers playing taps, a lone bagpiper, an honor guard firing four gunshots into the air - were reminiscent of the funeral for Weinhold many had attended just four days before.
County Executive George R. "Buzz" Westfall told the crowd that there had been some delays in opening the park. The delays occurred during an uncommonly violent period for police, when St. Louis city police Officer Robert Stanze was shot and killed in the line of duty in August, and several city and county officers were injured.
"Considering some of the events of the past few months, maybe it's appropriate that it's on a dreary, dismal day," Westfall said.
When officials unveiled the statues, with their black bunting, Julie Weinhold - flanked by her father and by Officers Stanley and Cavanaugh - smiled. Her husband, whose name is now etched on a wall near the statue of the police officer, would have come here himself . . . maybe brought her here.
After the bagpiper slowly walked away, after the even rows of uniformed men and women broke ranks, and after the band packed away its horns and drums, the rain cleared. Officers and firefighters lingered for a while, some with their eyes cast on the fresh bronze faces.
"Rest in peace, comrades," the memorial reads, with water flowing in a pool around and above the chiseled words. "We will not forget you."
A list of honors given to St. Louis police officers
Purple Heart awards:
* Officer Michael Reis for injuries suffered April 21. He was investigating a traffic accident on Interstate 44 near Antire Road when a vehicle hit his patrol car, which hit him. Reis suffered a broken leg and injuries to his knee, ankle, ribs, shoulder and right eye.
* Officer Kevin Stevener for injures suffered Sept. 26. He was answering a call of "shots fired" at a house in Bel-Ridge when a suspect pointed a shotgun at him. Stevener and the suspect exchanged fire. Stevener was wounded in the shoulder by 37 shotgun pellets.
* Detective Matt O'Neill for an eye injury suffered Oct. 12. O'Neill was chasing a rape suspect through woods when a tree branch cut his right eye.
Distinguished service citations:
* Officer Stevener, for the call on Sept. 26
* Officers Joseph Ellis and Chad Louis for rushing Stevener out of harm's way.
* Bel-Ridge Sgts. Thomas Flannery and Joseph Difatta, Normandy Officer Victor Brinkman and Hillsdale Officer Christopher Cornell for rushing one of the victims of that shooting out of harm's way.
Meritorious Service Citations:
* Officer Stevener for the arrest Sept. 22 of a man who allegedly had violently attacked a woman while attempting to burglarize her apartment in North County.
* Detectives O'Neill and Jenifer Ruckman for running a sting operation that led to the arrest Oct. 12 of a suspected rapist.
* Lt. Kenneth Schmelig for convincing the suspect in the Sept. 26 Bel-Ridge shooting to surrender.
* Officers Chad Deakin and Mark Tillman for arresting a rape suspect in an Oct. 12 sting.
* Officers Joseph Minnick and Jason Rodesiler for disarming a suicidal man Aug. 3 before he was able to harm himself, his mother or other officers.
Also, Officer Derek Dunmire received his helicopter pilot's wings from the county police.
(iSyndicate; St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Nov. 9, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.
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