SALEM - Two Salem police officers who died in the line of duty in the early 1900s will have their names added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. this spring.
"I think it's long overdue," Chief J.T. Panezott said.
Panezott received a letter Monday notifying him that Patrolman Charles Miller and Patrolman Edward Piller have been approved for inclusion on the memorial, with their names to be dedicated at 8 p.m. May 13 at the 26th Annual Candlelight Vigil during National Police Week.
Now he's trying to track down any family members of the two fallen officers to make them aware of the honor so they can attend the ceremony.
Miller was shot and killed by a burglary suspect shortly after arresting him at the Pennsylvania train depot on April 8, 1908.
Piller died April 25, 1936 in an accident while testing out the department's recently repaired motorcycle.
Both men are buried in Hope Cemetery and both of their stories have been chronicled in the records of late Salem historian Dale Shaffer. Panezott was contacted last year by a researcher from the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund who asked if any Salem officers had been killed in the line of duty.
He then helped compile information about both men through department files and materials held by the Salem Historical Society, so the chief could nominate them for the memorial.
"As police officers, we don't forget the sacrifices our brother officers made, no matter how long ago it was," Panezott said.
He said someone from the department and local Fraternal Order of Police will likely attend the ceremony, but he wants any relatives of the two men to step forward and contact him at 330-337-7811.
"If it was somebody I was related to, I would want to know," he said.
According to the website at www.nleomf.org, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund was founded in 1984 to honor and remember the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers in the United States. The memorial lists the names of more than 19,000 officers killed in the line of duty dating back to the first known officer killed in 1791. The memorial was dedicated on Oct. 15, 1991.
The website at www.nleomf.com said "the term 'killed in the line of duty' means a law enforcement officer has died as a direct and proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty. This includes victim law enforcement officers who, while in an off-duty capacity, act in response to a law violation. It also includes victim law enforcement officers who, while in an off-duty capacity, are en route to or from a specific emergency or responding to a particular request for assistance; or the officer is, as required or authorized by law or condition of employment, driving his or her employer's vehicle to or from work; or when the officer is, as required by law or condition of employment, driving his or her own personal vehicle at work and is killed while en route to or from work."
On the job just three years, Miller was the first Salem officer killed in the line of duty after a ticket agent at the train depot reported seeing a man fitting the description of a burglary suspect wanted for some home burglaries on South Lincoln Avenue. Miller responded and took the suspect into custody on a passenger train car.
According to an account by Shaffer, a witness said after the officer and suspect stepped down from the train onto the platform, the prisoner "suddenly switched his hand to his hip pocket, drew his gun, turned, pressed it against Miller, and fired two shots." Miller died at the scene.
Piller had been an officer about six years when he died at the former Central Clinic of a fractured skull and concussion several hours after being injured in the motorcycle accident. The city's mayor, George Harroff, had also been on the motorcycle, but survived his injuries.
A native of Washingtonville, Piller had been testing out the department's motorcycle after it had been out of service for six months for repairs.
An account by Shaffer said Piller and Harroff had decided to go for a short ride. Police Chief Ralph Stoffer was riding the department's new motorcycle and looked back and saw the bike with Piller and Harroff go into the air and throw them off head-first.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is located in an area of Washington, D.C. known as Judiciary Square between the White House and the U.S. Capitol in the 400 block of E Street. The visitors center is located on Seventh Street, NW.