Honoring Local Police Officers for Peace Officers Memorial Day
Today, we take time to honor those officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice and thank them for their service.
The idea of a Peace Officers Memorial Day came into effect on October 1, 1961, when Congress asked the president to designate May 15 to honor law enforcement officers. President John F Kennedy signed the bill into law on October 1, 1962. Each year, the president of the United States proclaims May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week of each year during which such May 15 occurs as Police Week.
According to the Office Down Memorial Page, 1,929 officers have lost their lives in the line of duty. Below we recognize just a handful that served with the Amarillo Police Department. Thank you to Office Down Memorial Page with providing us their stories.
Police Officer Justin Scherlen succumbed to injuries sustained 11 months earlier when his patrol car was struck head-on by another vehicle near the intersection of SW 34th Avenue and Georgia Street.
Officer Scherlen had served with the Amarillo Police Department for 11 years and was assigned to the Uniformed Division. He also served on the agency's Honor Guard and Dive Team. He is survived by his wife and four children.
Officer Mark Simmons succumbed to injuries sustained three years earlier when his patrol car was struck from behind by a pickup truck.
Officer Simmons had served with the Amarillo Police Department for 5 years at the time of the accident and had previously served with the Randall County Sheriff's Department for 1 year. He is survived by his two children and parents.
Sergeant James Mitchell was shot and killed while returning home from work when he stopped to render aid at the scene of a one-car accident he witnessed on I-27.
The driver of the vehicle began to flee. When Sergeant Mitchell ordered him to stop he opened fire with a 9 mm handgun, striking Sergeant Mitchell four times.The shooter was sentenced to death and was executed in 2002.
Sergeant Mitchell had been with the agency for 16 years. He was survived by his wife and two daughters.
Patrolman Miller was struck and killed by a drunk driver while directing traffic around an accident on I-40 at Nelson Avenue. The drunk driver lost control of his commercial truck, crashed through a guardrail, and struck Patrolman Miller. The suspect was convicted of criminal negligent homicide and sentenced to one year in jail and fined $2000.
Patrolman Miller was survived by his wife and two sons.
Patrolman Berry McGuire was shot and killed following a traffic stop on the 900 block of South Willow Street.
After arresting one of the suspects in the vehicle the man attempted to flee. As Patrolman McGuire attempted to put the subject back in the patrol car the other occupants of the vehicle he stopped came to the subject's assistance. During the struggle one of the men took Patrolman McGuire's gun and shot him. The subjects then fled the scene but were all apprehended. Three of the men, who were brothers aged 17, 19, and 23, were sentenced to life. All three were denied parole in 2015 and 2016. One has another parole hearing in March, 2018, and the other two have hearings in April, 2021. The fourth was not charged when it was determined he attempted to help Patrolman McGuire during the struggle.
Patrolman McGuire was a veteran of the Texas Air National Guard. He was survived by his wife.
Patrolman Meadows was shot and killed just outside of the city limits during a vehicle pursuit of two juvenile suspects who had fled from a boy's camp and taken a family hostage. During the pursuit the two juveniles repeatedely fired at officers, striking Patrolman Meadows.
Other officers returned fire, killing one of the suspects, age 14. The other 15-year-old suspect was sent to a state reformatory. On his 17th birthday he was charged with murder but was later acquitted because it could not be determined who fired the fatal shot. He returned to his home in Hammon, Oklahoma, where on February 8, 1967, he murdered his father, his brother, and a friend. He was convicted of three counts of murder and sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted to three life terms. He died in prison November 13, 2013.
Patrolman Meadows was survived by his wife.
Patrolman Cawthon was shot and killed following a vehicle pursuit of a juvenile who ran a red light. The suspect finally stopped at his home and ran to the back door, where Patrolman Cawthon apprehended him. During the struggle the juvenile's brother and friend came to his aid and began to argue with the officer. The friend, who was standing behind Patrolman Cawthon grabbed his service weapon. The suspect was apprehended on the scene and was sentenced to ten years in prison.
Patrolman Cawthon was survived by his wife, son, and two daughters.
Assistant Chief Evans was killed in an automobile accident near Portales, New Mexico, while returning from Fort Bliss, Texas, for a prisoner transport. His department vehicle went out of control on an icy roadway and struck oncoming traffic.
Patrolman Moore was shot and killed after he and two other officers responded to a domestic disturbance call on North Monroe Street. As officers arrived the man returned to the scene with a rifle and demanded to speak with his wife. When Patrolman Moore instructed him to put the weapon down the man shot him. One of the officers returned fire, wounding the suspect, who was apprehended a short distance later while trying to flee. The man was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Patrolman Moore was survived by his wife and two daughters.
Patrolman Woods was shot and killed in a liquor story robbery on South Pierce Street while on a stakeout. Detectives had received information that the store was going to be robbed that night and were given a description of the suspect. When the suspect entered Patrolman Woods stepped from behind a stack of boxes and attempted to arrest him. In the exchange of gunfire Patrolman Woods was struck three times. The suspect fled the scene and committed suicide when he was surrounded on the roof of a nearby building.
Patrolman Woods was survived by his wife and son.
Detective Lemuel Savage was shot and killed while transporting two prisoners to jail.
He had arrested the two when he found them burglarizing a store. He searched the two suspects before transporting but missed a handgun hidden in one of the man's pants. During the transport the man produced the gun and shot Detective Savage. As the suspect fled he kidnapped three other people before being apprehended.
The suspect was convicted of federal kidnapping charges and sent to Alcatraz Prison. While in Alcatraz the suspect was part of an escape attempt that ultimately left Correctional Officer Harold Stites and Correctional William Miller, of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, dead from gunshot wounds.
The suspect was executed in 1948 for his role in the two murders.
Detective Savage was survived by his wife, son, and two daughters.
Officer Grounds was shot and killed after responding to a family fight at 1413 East 4th Street. When officers arrived they were unable to locate the suspect. All the officers then went to the suspect's mother's house. When he was still not located. Officer Grounds and another officer returned to 1413 East 4th Street to continue the search. The suspect had concealed himself in the dark by a fence in the back yard. When Officer Grounds entered the back yard the suspect fired hitting the officer in the chest.
The suspect ran from the scene. A search of the area was immediately started. The suspect was located at a gas station pumping gas in his car. As officers approached he pulled a gun and pointed it at the officers. The officers fired at the suspect killing him.
Officer Grounds was survived by his wife and daughter.
Captain Preston Burnam was shot and killed after responding to a call of a man with a gun in a hotel.
The suspect was staying at the Western Motel and was creating a drunken disturbance in his room. The resident of another room called the front desk and complained about the noise. The desk clerk went to suspect's room and asked him to be quiet.
The suspect then ran out into the hall carrying a gun demanding to know who was complaining. The suspect and the person who called in the complaint began fighting in the hall. The weapon discharged and the fight ended. The suspect ran downstairs into the lobby and assaulted another person staying at the hotel.
The suspect held the gun to the side of the person he had assaulted in the lobby and ordered him outside the hotel. As they were walking out of the hotel Captain Burnam and his driver pulled up.
The suspect began running around the corner of the hotel. Captain Burnam chased him and the driver stayed to interview the complainant. Gunshots were heard around the corner and when the driver ran to assist he found Captain Burnam on the ground wounded.
Captain Burnam was assisted to the hotel where he died. He had been shot four times at close range by a .32 Colt revolver. Captain Burnam's weapon was still in its holster. The suspect was later apprehended and the weapon recovered.
The 27-year-old suspect was sentenced to life in prison. On August 28, 1942, he was killed by a fellow inmate who struck him in the head with a hammer at the Harlem Prison Farm in Fort Bend County.
Captain Burnam was survived by his daughter.
K9 Bruno died from an injury sustained during a training exercise with his handler.
His handler threw a training aid as an award and while Bruno was retrieving it he ran into a tree, which fractured a vertebrae in his neck.
Bruno had served with the Amarillo Police Department for two years.