Fairfield cop who died in line of duty honored at national memorial
Updated 6:40 am, Monday, May 16, 2011
Exactly 117 years to the day he died while arresting a stabbing suspect at the Fairfield rail depot, Fairfield County Deputy Sheriff Francis Pike's name was added Friday to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
"I don't think there's anyone who doesn't get the significance of that. Whether it was one week ago, or 100 years ago, we have to honor that," said Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara.
Francis Melville Pike was 38, and also Fairfield's town clerk. He'd gone to the train station on May 13, 1894, in an attempt to arrest a stabbing suspect when he suffered a heart attack and died.
During the Friday ceremony, Pike and 164 other officers who died on duty in the past were honored, as well as 152 officers who died in the past year. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano were scheduled to speak at the candle-light memorial service.
Police Sgt. Greg Gunter uncovered the circumstances surrounding Pike's death while researching the Police Department's history a few years ago, MacNamara said. Since they could find no Pike relatives, the department took it upon itself to make application to the memorial fund to have Pike's name added.
In a strange coincidence, the ceremony was planned for May 13 -- during National Police Week -- on what is the 117th anniversary of Pike's death.
Pike was unmarried when he died.
News reports at the time indicated that a John Sandis, also referred to as simply a Hungarian, or Louis, was arrested for stabbing another man with a knife during an argument at the train station. Alcohol was reportedly involved.
Following is how the incident that cost Pike his life is described in the online archive of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial:
"Deputy Sheriff Pike suffered a fatal heart attack as he attempted to place a suspect under arrest. As Deputy Pike and Charles Flannagan attempted to handcuff a suspect accused of stabbing another man, the suspect vigorously resisted arrest. Deputy Pike managed to handcuff the suspect's wrist when he collapsed and died at the scene."
The national memorial honors federal, state and local law-enforcement officers who have died while on duty. Located in Judiciary Square, the memorial features two curving, 304-foot-long blue-gray marble walls. Carved on these walls are the names of nearly 19,000 officers who have been killed in the line of duty throughout U.S. history, dating back to the first known death in 1791.
New names of fallen officers are added to the monument each spring, in conjunction with National Police Week.