memo­ri­als will honor fallen po­lice of­fi­cers

mark­ers to be placed in spots where 20 died while serv­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Clau­dia Grisales

With a few digs of a shovel, 11-year-old Mikayla Hunter turned over the dirt be­low the grass as her fam­ily and mem­bers of the Austin Po­lice Depart­ment watched.

Mikayla, a blond girl with an ea­ger smile, helped open a spot in the ground where a crew would lay the first of 19 memo­ri­als to fallen of­fi­cers through­out the city.

It was here, along a busy corner of the In­ter­state 35 frontage road in South Austin, that Mikayla’s fa­ther, Clin­ton Hunter, died nearly nine years ago while try­ing to stop a man on the run.

“He was pretty brave,” the in­com­ing six­th­grader at Cedar Park Mid­dle School said. “I feel very grate­ful for ev­ery­one to be out here. I think that (peo­ple) should re­mem­ber he gave his life.”

Nearby, a crew be­gan erect­ing a 5-foot-4-inch-

tall gray gran­ite me­mo­rial to honor Hunter, the first of 20 of­fi­cers to be hon­ored with a me­mo­rial af­ter dy­ing in the line of duty. This me­mo­rial, erected close to where Hunter died near I-35 and Onion Creek Park­way, is the be­gin­ning of a pro­gram that has been in the works for sev­eral months to make Austin the first Texas city to honor its fallen of­fi­cers in such a way.

Hunter died Nov. 29, 2001, as he tried to lay a spike stripe along the road to stop an evad­ing driver who had been drink­ing. Hunter, 22, had been with the force just 14 months. He was a U.S. Army vet­eran and a Hays High School grad­u­ate who col­leagues de­scribed as a quiet leader.

Mikayla was 2 when her fa­ther died.

“It’s things like this that help us re­mem­ber he will not be for­got­ten,” said Colleen Hun­terGau­dreau, Hunter’s widow, who has since re­mar­ried and lives with her hus­band, Mikayla, and 2-month-old and 2-yearold boys in Cedar Park.

As a crane be­gan to lower the gran­ite me­mo­rial, Hun­terGau­dreau smiled at her daugh­ter, and Mikayla’s grand­mother, Velma Hunter-Gon­za­les, qui­etly wiped tears flow­ing be­neath her sun­glasses.

“I think that it’s won­der­ful for our com­mu­nity to re­mem­ber,” said Hunter-Gon­za­les, who has be­come ac­tive against drunken driv­ers. “It’s very mov­ing for us.”

The me­mo­rial pro­gram is the brain­child of Austin po­lice Of­fi­cer Ja­son Huskins, who learned of the Austin of­fi­cers who had fallen in the line of duty as part of his train­ing through the po­lice academy.

“Ninety-five per­cent of peo­ple who drive through here don’t know,” Huskins says, look­ing out at the corner. “Now, hope­fully, that will change.”

Each me­mo­rial is 20 inches wide and 6 inches thick and will bear an Austin Po­lice shield and list the of­fi­cer’s name and last day of ser­vice, along with in­for­ma­tion about him or her and how the of­fi­cer was killed. The me­mo­rial will be placed as close as pos­si­ble to where the of­fi­cer was killed.

Huskins found sup­port for the idea through Rock­dale Me­mo­rial Co., which has built sim­i­lar memo­ri­als for Texas Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety of­fi­cers. The com­pany is do­nat­ing the memo­ri­als for the Austin pro­gram. Twenty Austin po­lice of­fi­cers have died in the line of duty since 1875.

In a few cases where it’s not pos­si­ble to erect the large me­mo­rial, a plaque will be placed near where an of­fi­cer died, Huskins said.

“As time passes, the gen­eral pub­lic tends to for­get, but the fam­ily, the of­fi­cers, they re­mem­ber,” Huskins said. Now, they can re­mem­ber and “it serves as a place for the fam­ily to come.”

Ri­cardo B. Brazz­iell pho­tos

Paul Luckey, left, and Pa­trick Za­p­ata of Rock­dale Me­mo­rial Co. in­stall a gran­ite marker hon­or­ing Clin­ton Hunter, an Austin po­lice of­fi­cer who died in South Austin in 2001. The com­pany is do­nat­ing the memo­ri­als for Hunter and other Austin po­lice of­fi­cers who died in the line of duty.

Hunter’s widow, Colleen Hunter-Gau­dreau, and daugh­ter, Mikayla Hunter, are glad the of­fi­cers will be re­mem­bered. ‘He was pretty brave,’ said Mikayla of her fa­ther, who died when she was 2.

Ri­cardo B. Brazz­iell

Clin­ton Hunter died near In­ter­state 35 and Onion Creek Park­way while try­ing to stop a driver who had been drink­ing.

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