|12-22-2012, 11:22 PM|
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Fallen officers remembered in funerals
By Phil Anderson
With an outpouring of support from law enforcement officers from across Kansas and as far away as West Virginia, Topeka bid a tearful farewell Saturday to two of its police officers who were shot and killed in the line of duty.
Hundreds of American flags rippled in the breeze in streets outside the Kansas Expocentre, where memorial services were held for Cpl. David Gogian, 50, and officer Jeff Atherly, 29.
The officers were shot shortly after 6 p.m. this past Sunday while responding to a routine call in the parking lot of the Dillons food market, 1400 S.W. Huntoon. Both officers were shot in the head and died a short time later at a Topeka hospital.
A man suspected in the deaths, David E. Tiscareno, 22, was shot and killed by authorities during a standoff early Monday at a house in the 300 block of S.W. Western.
Services for Gogian, an eight-year police veteran, were held at 10 a.m. in the Expocentre’s Landon Arena. An estimated 2,500 people were in attendance.
The Rev. Lee Martin, a former Topeka police chaplain and pastor of the Family Dispatch Church, officiated at Gogian’s service, during which the veteran officer was remembered for his commitment to serving his fellow citizens.
Speakers included Topeka city manager Jim Colson, Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Topeka Police Chief Ron Miller.
Each speaker touched on the impact the officers’ deaths have had in Topeka over the past week — and how their sacrifice will never be forgotten.
“The deaths of Cpl. David Gogian and officer Jeff Atherly have left an indelible mark on the community and on each of us as individuals,” Colson said. “I am proud of how we, as a community, have come together to support the families of our two fallen officers.”
He said the officers’ sacrifice “will not be forgotten — not now and not ever.”
Schmidt said the officers’ deaths have left “a scar on our hearts and on our state’s history,” serving as a reminder of the “bitter dangers” police face on a daily basis.
Some of Gogian’s fellow officers — including his son, officer Brandon Gogian — and other members of the community also spoke at the service.
Brandon Gogian remarked how his dad may have been short of stature, but was a “giant” in his eyes.
He said how much he enjoyed working on the police force with his father. When the two would hear each other talking before roll call, they would look around the corner in the police locker room and give each other a bad time.
Brandon Gogian recalled his father receiving a commendation for saving a woman’s life after she had been struck by lightning and was lying in a puddle of water in a parking lot.
With lightning and rain all around, he said his father rushed to the woman’s aid and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, helping her survive the incident.
“Dad wasn’t a hero because he was murdered,” Brandon Gogian said. “He was a hero because of how he lived.”
Brandon Gogian said his father’s death makes him all the more determined to remain on the police force and present a united front with his fellow officers to combat crime and make Topeka a safe place.
“We will persevere,” he said. “We will survive.”
Sgt. John Trimble, who was Gogian’s training officer, provided an emotional remembrance of Gogian and offered a glimpse into his love for his family, as well as the enjoyment he had on the golf course.
Gogian, Trimble said, not only was a good police officer, but a good cop — “and, yes, there is a difference.”
Gogian served in the U.S. Marine Corps and later in the Kansas Air National Guard.
He had been a reserve officer for the Topeka Police Department since 1992 before joining the force full time on Sept. 27, 2004.
The service for officer Jeff Atherly originally was scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Expocentre, but was moved back to about 3 p.m. because of the length of Gogian’s service and burial that followed at Penwell-Gabel Cemetery, S.W. 6th and Gage.
Atherly, who spent four years as a corrections officer, began his service with the Topeka Police Department on April 4, 2011.
Members of his police academy class remembered him as fun-loving and quick to crack a joke and keep his fellow officers in good spirits. He also was remembered as a highly respected officer who was quick to lend a hand or answer a call.
As they were for the first service, Colson, Brownback, Schmidt and Miller provided remarks during Atherly’s service, which was officiated by the Rev. Tobias Schlingensiepen, of First Congregational United Church of Christ, and the Rev. Dale Matherly, of First Christian Church-Disciples of Christ.
Brownback spoke of the difficulty in trying to make sense out of a tragic situation like the one that claimed the lives of Atherly and Gogian.
He said “this state was stopped in its tracks” upon hearing of the officers’ deaths.
“Our sorrow is with you,” Brownback said. “Our sympathy is with you. Our tears are with you.”
Chief Miller said he was told by Atherly’s family that he had wanted to be a police officer since he was 5 years old. The chief said Atherly died doing what his job required.
“Foolish people sometimes do things that we cannot foresee,” Miller said, referring to the tragic incident this past Sunday night. “He made the ultimate sacrifice and did what he had to do, and I suspect, given the opportunity, he’d probably tell us he’d do it again — especially if he thought he was protecting his fellow officers.”
As he ended his remarks, an emotional Miller looked at Atherly’s flag-draped casket and said: “Sleep in heavenly peace, Jeff. Sleep in heavenly peace.”
After both services, a long procession left the east side of the Expocentre at S.W. 19th Street and headed north on S.W. Topeka Boulevard to S.W. 17th, then west to S.W. Gage and north to the cemetery in the 400 block of S.W. Gage.
Besides people standing at attention holding U.S. flags on poles along the street, an enormous American flag was positioned over the 1800 block of S.W. Topeka Boulevard, held up on a cable that stretched between two Topeka Fire Department aerial trucks with fully extended ladders.
Dianna Morrissey, 31, formerly of Topeka and now of Eudora, was among hundreds of area residents to stand near S.W. 19th and Topeka Boulevard while the procession passed.
Morrissey, who said she planned to attend Atherly’s funeral, said it seemed “unreal” that the officers were killed.
“The best thing is coming out here and seeing all the people holding flags and paying their respects,” Morrissey said. “It makes me proud to be from Topeka.”
Atherly’s ceremony ended about sundown, and the graveside service at Penwell-Gabel Cemetery concluded about 6:35 p.m., well after darkness had fallen.
Phil Anderson can be reached at (785) 295-1195 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Philreports. Read his blog at CJOnline.com/blog/perspectives.