TOPEKA (WIBW) -- From the LEC, to DC, it is another May of remembrances and memories.. standing solemnly to honor Topeka's fallen law officers. Chief Bill Cochran presided over Topeka's ceremonies on May 2nd.
"It’s done for a reason, done for a purpose.. it’s not a tradition that I want to add more officers to.. I want to honor the ones we knew, and who died, serving the City of Topeka," he says.
The engraved names and stories of Caswell Matthews and Boots Shields are part of Topeka Police lore. But Chief Cochran knew and vividly remembers the officers who gave their lives in the later, more dangerous years.
Every day, Major Scott Gilchrist also walks by wall bearing the photographs of the fallen. Officers we lost from the stunning drug raid related shooting death of Officer Tony Patterson, to the traffic stop tragedy claiming the life of Corporal Jason Harwood in the fall of 2014.
“Tony Patterson was an amazing athlete, he was extremely fast, there weren’t too many foot chases that Tony Patterson lost.. and typically Tony wouldn’t even get on the radio to say he was in a foot chase because he’d already have caught them and had them in custody and help transport his prisoners," Major Gilchrist remembers.
In the summer of 2000, a helicopter crash would claims the lives of two of TPD's finest.. Jeff Howey and Joey Bohlender.
“We were on the SWAT Team together, got on there at the same time and we both got in the helicopter unit and were observers ready to be trained as pilots, and Jeff had just completed his pilot training before we got in the unit.. Jeff loved his daughters immensely, and was an avid collector of juke boxes.”
The City of Topeka had 12 years to try and heal those scars, when TPD lost two more outstanding men in blue. Corporal David Gogian and Officer Jeff Atherley, shot in the parking lot of a supermarket at Huntoon and Lane.
Of Corporal Gogian, Gilchrist recalls, “the calling to become a cop was so great for him, he came on full-time and rose to the rank of Corporal in a short period of time. He had the biggest heart in the world, and would do anything for anybody.. he showed up on the call to help them out.. acting as a Supervisor.”
“Jeff Atherley was a young officer, tragically his career was cut way too short. He had all the indications of being an outstanding officer. He always brightened a room when he came into it, he had a great sense of humor.”
Corporal Jason Harwood, who carried the nation's Honor Flag as a tribute during funeral services for the two officers, was himself shot and killed, brought to the end of his watch on a September Sunday evening in 2014.
“He kind of led by example. You tried to keep up with him if you could, because he was always out there leading from the front, was very much respected.”
Major Gilchrist, who has nearly 28 years of service on the force, says the healing power from the families ofthe fallen, is as strong as what the police family does, in comforting the officers' widows and children.
“It’s bittersweet when you see them, you keep hoping you’ll see their loved one with them, but I always take the opportunity to shake their hand and thank them for what they’ve done, because they’ve really have sacrificed so much for the community.. just seeing them gives back to us.”
Topeka's LEC looks forward to new plans for its small memorial. It may soon take on a look as a pocket park area of memorial reflection and be much closer to the building. 13 News also joins in honoring the two Shawnee County deputies who gave their lives serving their county, Deputies Benjamin Davidson and Gregory Stubbs, and we remember their families this week, too.