‘It’s beautiful’: Memorial unveiled to 15 fallen King County deputies and 1 sheriff

‘It’s beautiful’: Memorial unveiled to 15 fallen King County deputies and 1 sheriff

As relatives of the slain watched, King County Sheriff John Urquhart pulled back a curtain to reveal the marble memorial with individual glass plaques.

The first to be killed was in 1854; the last in 2006.

On Friday, the King County Sheriff’s Office unveiled a memorial to honor 15 deputies and 1 sheriff killed in the line of duty since the office was established in 1852.

 As relatives of the slain watched, Sheriff John Urquhart pulled back a curtain to reveal the stunning marble memorial with individual glass plaques, located on a wall outside the entrance to the sheriff’s headquarters at the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle.

“King County never forgets its fallen,” said Metropolitan King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who played a major role in bringing about the memorial.

Although the event had been planned for some time, it coincided with what Dunn described as the “heavy hearts” in the crowd reeling from the fatal shooting Wednesday of Tacoma Police Officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez.

Urquhart said construction of the memorial was one of his chief goals since being elected sheriff four years ago — something long overdue, he added.

“It’s been a long time coming, but today is that day,” he said.

Still, “it is bittersweet,” Urquhart said of the timing, noting Gutierrez gave his life during a domestic-violence call so familiar to law-enforcement officers.

He also pointed to the deaths, nationwide, of 134 officers and deputies killed in the line of duty so far this year, 63 by gunfire, a 64 percent increase over last year.

“Several of those cases, officers were targeted, solely for the fact they put on a uniform, a badge and a gun just to protect their community each and every day,” Urquhart said.

Of the 16 members honored on the memorial, Urquhart said 14 died as a result of homicidal acts and two from motorcycle accidents. Two were killed with their own weapons, he said, undermining what he called the myth that unarmed people pose no danger.

The memorial not only honors those who died, but also strengthens the resolve of those who serve, Urquhart said.

After the remarks, dozens of family members of those being recognized, many carrying red roses, gathered in front of the memorial to await its unveiling.

Among them was Don Armeni, 85, of Kalama, Cowlitz County, whose father Donald A. Armeni was shot and killed on Sept. 15, 1954, by a suspect he was taking into custody for commitment on an insanity warrant.

The son was 23 when he lost his father.

“I had just moved to Longview, Washington. I was there eight days. And they called me and said he had been killed. Yeah, it was kind of a shock, of course.”

About 1,000 people attended his father’s service, he said.

“I remember the procession was as long as I could see back,” he said of the vehicles that included many from various law-enforcement agencies.

The new memorial, he said, was rewarding to his family. And for the public, he said, it comes at a time when law enforcement is confronting so much change and new requirements.

“I feel sorry for all the officers today,” he said. “My dad … almost wouldn’t believe the way it’s changed.”

The memorial plaques contain the names of all 16 who died, along with badges from their respective eras.

The first killed was Deputy Wesley F. Cherry, who was shot on March 6, 1854, while searching with a posse for murder suspects on Whidbey Island, then part of King County in Washington Territory, before statehood. He had served for one day.

The most recent occurred Dec. 2, 2006 — 10 years to the day before Friday’s event — when Deputy Steve Cox was fatally shot while interviewing a man in the White Center area.

The only sheriff to die on duty was Louis V. Wyckoff, who suffered a heart attack on Jan. 21, 1882, while defending prisoners from a vigilante mob that hanged two suspects in a fatal robbery and another prisoner.

Urquhart spoke their names and the 13 others.

As he pulled back the curtain covering the memorial, a woman among the family members gasped.

Her voice quavering with emotion, she exclaimed, “It’s beautiful.”

Relatives then placed their roses on a cloth-covered table below the memorial.

One reached out her hand to touch the name of Deputy Richard S. Cochran II, killed on May 22, 1991, in a motorcycle accident while on duty.

A photo caption with this article, originally published Dec. 2, 2016, was corrected Dec. 3, 2016. In a previous version of this story, a caption misidentified a visitor to the new memorial and the relative she was there to honor. Elizabeth Stratton came to remember her brother, Deputy Richard S. Cochran II.

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