Ceremony honors Utah officers who died in the line of duty
South Salt Lake • More than four decades after Salt Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Melvin Colebrook lost his life while answering a domestic-disturbance call, his sacrifice is still appreciated.
On Wednesday, dozens of people gathered for an annual memorial service in honor of the officers with the sheriff's office and the Unified Police Department who have died in the line of duty.
Fifteen flags fluttered in the wind behind a stone memorial east of the sheriff's administration building, 3365 S. 900 West, each representing a lost life.
The first was Deputy Rodney Badger in 1853 and the most recent was crossing guard Henry Tesch in 1994. (Although the several hundred crossing guards who work for the sheriff's office are not sworn peace officers, they perform an important public safety function, officials said.)
Sgt. Jeff Evans, president of the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office Mutual Aid Association, which sponsored the service, expressed gratitude to the "heroes who deliberately put themselves in harm's way to protect others" and their loved ones.
"It is they who stand as a line between us and that ever-present evil," Evans said of the fallen officers.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said that when an officer dies, "we have to ask ourselves, 'Why are we doing this job?' "
The answer, the sheriff believes, is to serve others and to do something good.
"These officers will never be forgotten," Winder said.
The ceremony which included the singing of the national anthem by the Skyline High Madrigals, a rifle salute and the playing of taps which made some in the crowd of about 75 people tearful.
For Jean Wawrzyniak, who is Colebrook's widow and has attended the ceremony every year since 1991, the event was touching.
"It makes you feel good," Wawrzyniak said. "It's always emotional."
Colebrook was fatally shot March 10, 1973, at a home where a woman had reported her husband was being abusive, according to End of Watch: Utah's Murdered Police Officers, 1858-2003, by Robert Kirby, a Salt Lake Tribune columnist and former police officer.
While Colebrook and another sheriff's deputy wrestled with the husband in a bedroom, the man managed to remove the other deputy's sidearm and fired a bullet into Colebrook's face, according to End of Watch.
Fifteen Salt Lake County deputies, officers and crossing guards who died in the line of duty were remembered at a ceremony Wednesday.
They are Deputy Rodney Badger, killed in 1853; Marshal Francis A. Colclough, 1912; Officer William C. "Billy" Nelson, 1912; Chief J.W. "Billy" Grant, 1913; Deputy Stannard Jensen, 1913; Deputy Otto Witbeck, 1913; Deputy Thomas Manderich, 1913; Deputy J. Douglas Hulsey, 1913; Deputy Gordon Stuart, 1928; Deputy Oscar Fullmer, 1928; Deputy McKay Jewkes, 1959; Deputy Melvin Colebrook, 1973; crossing guard Albert J. Sandborn, 1993; Deputy Michael S. Welcker, 1994; and crossing guard Henry Tesch, 1994.