Markers to honor Phoenix's fallen heroes

Judi Villa
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 6, 2006 12:00 AM

There is no park or school bearing the name of Phoenix police Officer Dale Stone, no cross or flowers marking the site where he was killed in the line of duty in 1970.

Many people have no idea anymore who Stone even was or that his life ended at Seventh Avenue and Roosevelt Street while he was rushing to the aid of another officer who had been fatally shot.

Phoenix plans to place historical markers at each intersection where its 31 police officers and nine firefighters died in the line of duty. The 24-inch round signs will be posted on street poles, bearing the name of the officer or firefighter and the date he died. At the bottom, a logo says, "City of Heroes."

"That he's not forgotten is important to me," said Yolanda Fernandez, whose father, Phoenix police Officer Ignacio Conchos was shot to death along with Officer John Davis in 1982. "It's nice to know something's out there to remind people that someone did make a sacrifice."

While cities have traditionally named parks, schools and other buildings after fallen police and firefighters, Phoenix is the first Valley city to mark the location of each death so prominently and so consistently. The signs are the same size as those denoting railroad crossings.

"This is about embracing the history of this city and what it stands for and the people who sacrificed to make it what it is today," said Phoenix police Officer Wally Olsen, who proposed the historical markers. "When a police officer or firefighter dies, the community suffers a significant loss. It becomes part of the community's character. Everybody grieves.

"This is where that person made that sacrifice."

The state Department of Public Safety erects sandstone monuments to mark the sites where officers have died. And affixed to a light pole on Loop 202 at Scottsdale Road is a cross with the DPS logo and badge number of Officer Doug Knutson, who was hit by a pickup truck and killed in 1998 while waiting for a tow truck.

"It is a reminder, but more than anything it's to honor those men for what they've done," said DPS Detective Tim Mason. "When things are bad and people are going away from it, we're going towards it to fix it. Those monuments tell people we're here for you."

Phoenix's historical markers will be installed next spring, said Jake Jacobsen, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association. The police and firefighters unions will pay to create, install and maintain the markers.

"We can't forget those officers who lose their lives in the line of duty," Jacobsen said.

One of the markers will be placed near 35th Avenue and Cactus Road, where Phoenix police Officer David Uribe was shot to death during a traffic stop last year.

"I definitely like the idea," said Uribe's son, Adam, who also is a Phoenix police officer. "I look forward to seeing it."

For nearly a decade, the United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association has erected crosses for fallen police and firefighters.

A red cross, edged in white, sits to the side of the central Phoenix intersection where Firefighter Tim Hale died in 1994, crushed by a drunken driver as he loaded a stretcher into an ambulance. But the nameplate is too small to see from the street.

The new markers, attached to street poles about 7 feet from the ground, will be much more permanent and visible, said Billy Shields, president of the firefighters union.

"It's important to have an awareness that at a particular location, at a particular street corner or on a stretch of street is actually where one of our officers lost their life," Shields said. "When you're driving by, it is a moving and important reminder of the sacrifice someone has given to protect Phoenix."