On Thursday, May 7, 2015, IACP Indian Country Law Enforcement Section Chairman Chief Bill Denke, Vice Chairman Chief Patrick Melvin, and numerous section members participated in the 24th Annual Indian Country Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico.
The memorial, designed with Native American traditions, honors law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty while serving Indian Country. Five names were added to the memorial this year: Officer Jair Cabrera, Salt River Police Department; Sergeant Patrick Johnson, Alaska State Troopers; Trooper Gabriel Rich, Alaska State Troopers; Village Public Safety Officer Ronald Zimin, Alaska State Troopers; and Special Agent Colin Clark, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Justice services. These additions bring the total number of officers listed on the memorial to 108.
Director Darren Cruzan of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Justice Services led the service which featured speeches from Deputy Secretary Mike Connor, Department of the Interior; Director Michael S. Black, Bureau of Indian Affairs; Deputy Director Kenneth Keene, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center; and others.
On behalf of the Salt River Police Department and Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian community, Section Vice Chairman Chief Patrick Melvin shared stories and memories about fallen Salt River Officer Jair Cabrera from his family, fellow officers, and community members. From Officer Cabrera’s father, Chief Melvin shared the following:
“Jair’s name in Hebrew means ‘God Enlightens.’ Each time we saw each other I truly saw that light in him in his courage, commitment, and dedication; plus, we all know he has an awesome sense of humor. His presence literally did shine like a beacon of light. You could see it in his eyes, his handshake, and his devotion to duty and family. His light was also in truth, service, and helping others.”
Officer Cabrera was shot in his vehicle while conducting a traffic stop on May 24, 2014.
Section member Captain Andrew Merrill of the Alaska State Troopers (AST) gave a heartfelt tribute to Sergeant Patrick Johnson and Trooper Gabriel Rich who were shot and killed on May 1, 2014, while responding to a call in Tanana, Alaska, and to Village Public Safety Officer Ronald Zimin who was ambushed and shot while responding to a domestic violence crime on October 22, 1986. Captain Merrill said, “All three of these men represent the best of what we are and what we can be.” In their honor he shared a letter from Sgt. Johnson’s wife and an AST cadence about tradition of honoring the memory of all those troopers serving the “blue and gold.” He concluded, “We will remember them for what they stood for, not that they died, but that they lived; and the way they lived is why we honor them.”
A traditional Native American blessing of the memorial was performed, and a traditional drum group comprised of Native American BIA officers played during the service. Following the blessing, all 108 fallen officers were named and honored.