Saturday, September 02, 2000

        The first flowers to arrive were daisies and carnations. Their red, white and blue pot was placed at the feet of the bronze police officer at memorial plaza on Ezzard Charles Drive. By early Friday morning, flags there were already at half-staff.

        Police Officer Kevin Crayon's name will be etched in the newest black granite slab, beneath those of officers Daniel Pope and Ronald Jeter, shot to death on Dec. 5, 1997. The roster of the dead, spread over three massive stones, begins in 1846 with Watchman Davis.

        That's what they were called at first. Watchmen. The name came from Biblical times when guards were posted around the walls of cities, according to the Book of Isaiah “constantly by day and ... all through the watches of the night.”

        Twenty-four/seven, the kids call it today — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Unbearably trivial
               Officer Crayon was on what's known as the “power shift,” from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., the time when most trouble starts.

RELATED archives of recent killings and attacks on Tristate officers:
  • Daniel Pope and Ronald Jeter
  • Mike Partin
  • Kathleen Conway
        And we civilians know about trouble. Drug dealers. Bank robbers. Murderers. Bad guys. This was unbearably ordinary. A kid killed a police officer on what was essentially a traffic stop.

        “The everyday things are the ones that can blow up,” retired Police Chief Mike Snowden said. “This is a dangerous job.” All the time.

        Well, we sort of know that, too. We must know it. We see them lugging all that hardware around — the gun, the cuffs, a stick. Officer Crayon's weapon was on the ground near his right hand. He had finally drawn his gun. But that is not the first thing he did.

        First, he noticed a kid getting behind the wheel of a maroon Ford Taurus who looked too young to be driving a car. So the police officer asked to see the boy's license.

        It began in a UDF parking lot, not a crack house. With a 12-year-old boy, not a grizzled felon.

        Courtney Mathis, a seventh-grader, drove a car that dragged Officer Crayon to his death. Now dead himself, shot in the chest by Officer Crayon, the child might otherwise have been guilty of something like unauthorized use of a vehicle or a curfew violation, Police Chief Thomas Streicher said.

        “For that incident to deteriorate into the death of two individuals is very troubling.”

"Trying to protect'
               The boy was armed, as Fraternal Order of Police President Keith Fangman is fond of saying, “with a 2,000-pound chunk of metal called an automobile.”

        The officer put himself in the way of that car, the chief said, to stop a 12-year-old boy who was backing “in a reckless manner” toward some other kids. Little ones. “I like to think he was trying to protect them.”

        The chief talked to reporters Friday in a conference room bright with television lights and tangled with cable. He was flanked by six uniformed police officers. Behind him stood the city manager, the mayor, the president of the police union.

        Everybody wearing a badge also was wearing a black band over it.

        And for a while the city will weep, sometimes literally. We have done this before. Bagpipes wailing. Impressive funeral processions. Powerful, noisy salutes. More flowers will pile up at the feet of the bronze officer.

        “I wish people had the same respect for the job all the time,” says Mike Snowden. Respect for the ordinary days, grateful for the watchmen.


        E-mail Laura at or call (513) 768-8393.

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