SALT LAKE CITY — Three Salt Lake police officers killed in the line of duty, all in separate eras but eerily close to the same spot, were remembered Thursday.
As part of The Salt Lake City Police History Project, three plaques were unveiled to honor officer William Cook, Sgt. Alonzo Wilson and Sgt. Thomas Stroud.
"The fact that officer Cook, Sgt. Wilson and Sgt. Stroud died while serving the residents of Salt Lake City in three distinct eras spanning almost 100 years speaks to the long-standing dedication of the men and women of the Salt Lake City Police Department to their community," said Salt Lake Deputy Police Chief Jim Coleman during Thursday's ceremony.
The goal of the Police History Project is to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving the citizens of Salt Lake.
"The problem as time goes on is we forget. We forget their names, we forget their faces, we forget what they went through and the sacrifices they made for this city. The idea of the history project is to not let their memory die," said Salt Lake Police Lt. Mike Ross, the project manager.
The men were all killed in the area where Harmons City Creek is located, 135 E. 100 South. Harmons agreed to host the bronze plaques, which are now displayed on the wall outside the entrance.
The police department was founded in 1851. Cooke was the first Salt Lake City officer to be killed in the line of duty. In 1858, he was working at the city's first jail, located across the street from where the Harmons currently stands. Two men demanded the release of an inmate. Cooke refused and was shot. He died five days later. Three days after Cooke died, his killer was also shot and killed in Fort Bridger, Wyo., by a Salt Lake mail carrier familiar with the homicide, Ross said. Cooke was the father of six children.
"We forget their names, we forget their faces, we forget what they went through and the sacrifices they made for this city. The idea of the history project is to not let their memory die."
Wilson, a Civil War veteran, was also working on the property across from Harmons in 1894, which was then police headquarters. Ross said he was giving a class on gun safety when a new recruit accidentally dropped his weapon and Wilson was struck with a .45-caliber bullet. He died five hours later. Wilson's wife gave birth to their seventh child the next day.
Stroud, 34, a motorcycle officer, was heavily involved with community work, particularly with children. In 1951, he was preparing to host a party for children. He was unloading items from his vehicle, which was parked on the curb on 100 South, when a gun fell from his waistband and fired as it hit the ground, striking and killing him. He was married with two sons.
The plaques cost about $2,500 each. They are placed around the city based on space availability and funds. For the three plaques unveiled Thursday, Mike Farley, grandson of Salt Lake police detective Owen Farley, who was killed in the line of duty in 1951 just four months after Stroud died — donated the money to make it happen. His grandfather's plaque was placed at 269 S. State.
There have been 24 Salt Lake City police officers killed in the line of duty. The plaques on Thursday represented the 12th, 13th and 14th that have been erected.
Placing plaques for all officers killed in the line of duty may not be possible. One officer was killed on I-80. Another was considered killed in the line of duty while serving as a Marine reservist in Iraq.