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Salt Lake police dedicate plaque to honor officer killed in '73

Published October 4, 2012 11:22 pm

Memorial • Percy Clark was gunned down while trying to stop a robber.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Thursday marked the second time in about 39 years that Mike Clark had been at the spot where his father was gunned down.

The first time Clark drove by 564 E. Third Ave. was by accident. But Thursday's visit was on purpose, to dedicate a plaque in memory of his father, Percy Clark, a Salt Lake City police detective who was gunned down in the line of duty on Jan. 11, 1973.

"To me, it's not a happy place to be," said Clark, a Salt Lake City resident and the oldest of Percy Clark's seven children. "This probably puts final closure on the whole thing. I think it's a great tribute."

Dozens of people — including Percy Clark's wife, his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and officers who were with him the night he died — gathered at the spot, now home to the Avenues Bistro on Third, to unveil the plaque bearing his image.

"The important thing is not the fact that Percy died on this spot … but that his legacy continues on," said Police Chief Chris Burbank. "[The people here] have never forgotten the legacy of Percy Clark."

Clark's plaque was the fifth that has been dedicated so far. Other fallen Salt Lake police officers who have been honored with plaques: Brigham H. Honey and William N. Huntsman, Marshal Andrew H. Burt, Thomas F. Griffiths and Owen T. Farley

Mike Clark said his father was a great man.

"He loved his job, no doubt," he said. "He worked hard at it."

The day Percy Clark was shot, police received a tip that the pharmacy at the Third Avenue address was going to be robbed, so Clark, then 42, and several other officers set up surveillance and waited.

Clark was positioned just across the street.

When he saw the two robbers enter the store just before 9 p.m., Clark crossed the street and took cover behind a large mailbox about 15 feet from the front door.

When the men emerged, Clark stood up and told them they were under arrest.

Michael E. Mahoney, 21, a known drug addict, spun around and fired one shot at Clark, striking him in the head. Clark was pronounced dead a short time later.

Mahoney and his accomplice, Brian R. Johnson, 17, fled. Police said Mahoney turned around to fire again. He died in a hail of police gunfire.

Johnson immediately surrendered, and police recovered a pillowcase containing stolen drugs and $50.36 in cash.

Johnson was certified as an adult and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 years to life.

Ann James, then 19, who helped plan the robbery, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor conspiracy and was sentenced to probation.

Just before his death in September, prominent civil rights attorney Brian Barnard, 67, agreed to sponsor the plaque. Barnard died before the plaque's unveiling, and a friend who spoke on his behalf said he was sorry Barnard couldn't be there to see it.

jstecklein@sltrib.com

Twitter @sltribjanelle —

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O For more information on Salt Lake City police officers killed in the line of duty, visit http://bit.ly/SA4N8c.