SPRINGFIELD, IL -- Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich joined elected officials and law enforcement officers from around the state today for the Illinois Police Officers' Memorial Day ceremonies at the State Capitol to honor twelve Illinois police officers killed in the line of duty. The fallen officers' names will be added to the 862 names already on the monument.
“These brave men and women came to work every day prepared to do whatever was required to protect the public. And in the face of danger, they never relented their duty to serve and protect. Today we honor the sacrifices they made, and we grieve with their colleagues, families and friends,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We should also take this opportunity to remember and thank the officers who are still with us and continue to serve the public.”
Five of the officers honored were killed during the past year. On February 4, 2004, Riverdale Police Department Detective William Rolniak, Jr., 39, was escorting a prisoner from an interview room to a jail cell. While in the process, he was disarmed by the prisoner, forced out of the police station and into a building across the street. There, the prisoner shot Detective Rolniak in the head, killing him. The prisoner was subsequently shot and killed by responding officers. A wife and two children survive Rolniak, who had been with the department for 12 years.
The second officer killed in the line of duty was 45-year-old Deputy Sheriff Dane Johns of the Williamson County Sheriff's Office. Deputy Sheriff Johns, a 23-year veteran, was accidentally killed on July 26, 2004, while disarming his patrol vehicle near the end of his shift. As he was removing his shotgun, the weapon discharged, fatally wounding him. Johns leaves behind a wife and three children.
On August 8, 2004, at approximately 5:50 a.m., Chicago Police Department Officer Michael P. Gordon and his partner were on routine patrol when their squad car was struck by a drunk driver. Gordon, 30, died from injuries sustained in the accident. He was completing his second year with the Chicago Police Department, prior to which he spent two years with the Riverside Police Department. Gordon is survived by a wife and four children.
Joliet Police Department Officer Jonathan E. Walsh, 27, died on August 20, 2004, as a result of a hit and run accident. Officer Walsh was responding to a burglar alarm call when a motorist pulled out in front of his squad car. The collision caused Walsh's squad car to careen off the road and collide with a heavy-construction crane. The driver of the other vehicle fled the scene but was captured several hours later. Walsh, who was single, had been with the department for three and a half years.
The final officer killed in the line of duty during 2004 was Officer Cristy S. Tindall, 33, of the Peoria Police Department. On December 30, she was a passenger in a marked squad car responding to a call to assist another officer. While en route, the squad car struck a utility pole, killing her instantly. Officer Tindall was single and a 10-year veteran of the department.
The remaining seven officers honored died in the line of duty between 1922 and 1975. Four of those officers served with the Peoria Park District Police Department. Officer Charles E. Barden was killed instantly on August 24, 1938, when his patrol motorcycle suddenly veered off the road and struck a state highway truck. Barden was on his way to a repair shop when the accident occurred, as he had been experiencing mechanical difficulties with the cycle. On August 4, 1937, Officer David W. Gaul was leading a large group of children across a street when a vehicle being driven at a high rate of speed by a 15-year-old, struck the officer. Officer Gaul was transported to the hospital where died a few hours later. Officer Charles E. DeBolt died on July 2, 1924, as a result of a motorcycle accident, which occurred while he was in pursuit of a speeding motorist. While on patrol June 12, 1922, Constable Arthur T. Smith and his partner were investigating a couple of cars parked along the side of a road. As Smith approached the vehicles, occupants opened gunfire, fatally wounding Constable Smith.
On May 17, 1952, Chicago Police Department Officer Martin J. Moylan, Sr., died as a result of injuries sustained in a traffic accident involving another motorist. Officer Robert L. Johnston, also a member of the Chicago Police Department, was kicked in the leg by a subject he was attempting to apprehend on July 21, 1926. The wound caused from the kick subsequently developed gangrene, which led to the amputation of his leg. Infection set in after the operation, which resulted in the officer's death.
On September 23, 1975, Joliet Police Department Officer Jeffrey P. Hopkins was providing a motorcycle escort for a funeral procession. After stopping an individual for interrupting the procession, Officer Hopkins attempted to catch up with the funeral motorcade but was struck by a car. He died six days later from his injuries.
Thursday marked the 20th observance of Illinois Police Officers' Memorial Day. A national day of remembrance, National Peace Officers' Memorial Day, takes place May 15 of each year. During 2004, 136 police officers were killed (55 feloniously and 81 accidentally) in the line of duty in the United States.