Fallen Officer's Father Reflects On Emotional Journey

Steve and Jeff Atherly (Photo submitted)

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - More than four months after their deaths, the state will pause to honor two Topeka Police officers, killed in the line of duty.

Photos keep the memories fresh for Steve Atherly. His son is Officer Jeff Atherly, who, along with Corporal David Gogian, was shot and killed in the line of duty Dec. 16, 2012.

"I still occasionally will think of something and think, 'I want to tell Jeff this,'" Steve said, "and I can't."

Steve Atherly says his son wasn't always sure what career path he'd take. In conversations, he'd advise him simply to find a job that he loved.

Steve believes Jeff found it at the Topeka Police Department. He says Jeff always wanted to help people and would often take calls nobody really wanted to take. In fact, Steve says, Jeff wasn't supposed to have been outside the Dillons store that night, but he heard the call, was nearby and went to provide backup.

Despite the tragic result, Steve says he finds some solace in knowing his son wanted to serve.

"I truly believe that even if he knew what was going to happen, he'd do it all over again," Steve said.

The names of Jeff Atherly and David Gogian are now memorialized in stone, both on a monument outside the Law Enforcement Center and on the statewide memorial on the northeast grounds of the Statehouse. The site, Steve says, is tough but makes him proud.

Steve says the family, including Jeff's mother and his fiance, takes things day by day. He says Jeff's son, Logan, now three and a half, is what keeps him going.

Steve says the family also can't say enough about how the community to which Jeff gave so much has given back to them.

"The city and community have been fantastic," Steve said. "We can't thank you enough. it means a great deal."

Jeff Atherly and David Gogian will be honored during a candlelight vigil 8:30 pm Thursday. The event is moved inside the Statehouse due to weather. The statewide law enforcement memorial ceremony is noon Friday at the law enforcement memorial on the northeast grounds of the Capitol.

WIBW-TV will show Friday's law enforcement memorial ceremony live on 13.2 MyTV and stream it live at wibw.com.