Arlington's Finest Honored

Arlington's Finest Honored

New memorial salutes Arlington police killed in the line of duty.

Gone but not forgotten, Arlington honored six officers killed in the line of duty Monday with the unveiling of a long-awaited peace officers' memorial.

Bagpipes sounded in courthouse's central courtyard as a color guard placed wreaths at the feet of the bronze statue—the likeness of a unformed officer standing at attention complete with pistol, whistle and cap. The names and faces of the six men are etched onto its marble base.

"All of our elected official and the entire community have incredible pride and appreciation for every man and woman in uniform who has protect and served Arlington," said County Board Chairman Jay Fisette, who read a proclamation designating May 16 as Peace Officer's Memorial Day.

After the grand unveiling of the statue, one rose for every fallen officer was placed at the statue's feet by tearful family members and friends.

"This service and the memorial is our way of paying tribute to our fallen brothers," said Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) Chief Doug Scott, who recognized the initiative of Cpt. Mary Gavin for beginning the push to establish the memorial.

Among those fallen brothers is one who lost to history until his recent rediscovery, special police officer Louis Shaw. According to Kerry Day of the ACPD's planning and research unit, Shaw was killed on duty four years before the department's official creation in 1940 but he performed the same duties as a modern day officer. His death was never recognized until Day uncovered his records.

SHAW DIED Dec. 6 1935, the night a 21-year-old suspect named William Harrison stole a car in Arlington and crashed it into a ditch near Four Mile Run after being pursued by a Fairfax County Sheriff's Deputy. Harrison was captured by the deputy and taken to Alexandria. Shaw and his partner, Vernon Wilt, got sent to retrieve him.

Returning from Alexandria with Harrison in custody, the two officers came upon the spot where the stolen car was being removed by a tow truck. Wilt got out to inspect it and direct traffic, a decision that may have saved his life. As Shaw guarded the prisoner from inside the police cruiser, a gasoline truck on the roadway failed to notice the stopped vehicle and collided with it, sending the car into a telephone poll. The car burst into a fire so hot that the bullets in Shaw's pistol discharged. Both Shaw and Harrison died.

Five other Arlington officers have died in the line of duty. In 1954, Russell Pettie was shot during an attempt to arrest a mentally ill suspect. Ten years later, officer Arthur Chorovich died in a motorcycle crash. In 1972, Israel Gonzalez was shot trying to stop a bank robbery. John Buckley was shot during a gun fight outside a Crystal City bank in 1977. George Pomraning Jr. died in 1979, shot by a prisoner who had concealed a pistol in his boot. The names of all six men are committed to the National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial in Washington, DC.