memorials will honor fallen police officers
markers to be placed in spots where 20 died while serving
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.”
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.
Clinton Hunter died near Interstate 35 and Onion Creek Parkway while trying to stop a driver who had been drinking.