CLEVELAND – After four years of planning, a memorial was unveiled for fallen police officers in the Cleveland Police Department’s Fourth District.
"We stand here to say 'thank you' to two young men who paid the ultimate sacrifice by giving up their life for their friends,” said Councilman Zack Reed. Reed was instrumental in organizing the resources and finances to build the memorial at 9333 Kinsman Road.
In Cleveland, more than 100 officers have died in the line of duty since the late 1800s, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, but the new memorial honors the two who were killed in the Fourth District.
"This is where he came from,” said Officer Johnson’s wife, Tracey. “He left that morning of October 21, 1981. He left the Fourth District doing his job and he never returned. So, it's only fitting that his name is on this monument and that we have something here from which they came from."
Tracey Johnson and Ericka Owens have a bond that few can understand. Tracey’s husband died in 1981 and Ericka lost her husband in 2008. "It's hard,” said Ericka Owens. “It's still hard but this is very fitting. This memorial is very fitting. It's one more place that my kids can come, locally, to see that their dad's sacrifice hasn't been forgotten.”
"It is our promise to those families, that we will never forget our fallen fraternal brothers and sisters,” said Chief Michael McGrath, who also reminded those in attendance that each and every day, public servants go to work and sometimes they don’t make it home.
"They're Patrolman Anthony Johnson and Patrolman Derek Owens, but to us at home, they're Tony and they're Derek: They're fathers. They're husbands. They're sons," said Johnson.
Owens also thanked the community for their continued support. "We're just surrounded by people who love us and it's helped, but it's still tough - it's still tough. When we go home and we close those doors, it's tough. Especially now in the holiday season, it's tough."
The memorial includes a drawing of the city and a separate monument where the names are engraved. It will be re-dedicated next year during National Police Week.