Police memorial to add missed officers

`Killed in line of duty' wall prompts check for names

August 05, 1999|By La Quinta Dixon | La Quinta Dixon,SUN STAFF

More than 21 years ago, Baltimore police Sgt. Robert J. Barlow collapsed and died from a massive heart attack shortly after leaving work. This fall, he might join the ranks of 101 city officers officially declared "killed in the line of duty."

Barlow and at least three others have been identified as candidates for having their names inscribed on a $3.5 million memorial to be built at Shot Tower Park, near downtown police headquarters.

The names surfaced after the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police announced a fund-raising campaign for the memorial last month. A groundbreaking ceremony will be held either Oct. 30, when Officer Harold J. Carey was killed in a traffic accident, or Nov. 4, when Flight Officer Barry W. Wood died in a helicopter crash.

To account for all officers killed on duty, police are researching cases and inviting relatives to come forward with names of those who may have been missed.

"We found some names that weren't on the department wall police officers [killed in the line of duty] needed a proper memorial," said Karen Hanrahan, FOP campaign director.

It's not clear why, but the FOP and the Police Department have excluded Barlow from official department counts. Less than a month after Barlow died April 23, 1978, the Fire and Police Retirement Systems board of trustees ruled his death was related to "actual performance of duty."

Barlow collapsed at home, 65 minutes after going off duty. Hours earlier, he and a paramedic had carried two injured women up a flight of stairs during a baseball game at Memorial Stadium.

After she saw a media report on the memorial, Mabel Mullins, Barlow's sister-in-law, called to find out if his name would be included.

"Bob died in the line of duty, and I feel he deserves the same recognition that anybody shot [and killed] got," Mullins said. "He gave his life doing his job including giving his life to save that woman. That's an awesome sacrifice."

The FOP board of trustees will use the same criteria as the Fire and Police Retirement Systems board of trustees to determine if Barlow and several others will be included on the memorial.

"Every case will be looked at individually," said Gary McLhinney, president of the police union.

Research for the memorial isn't limited to the 20th century.

One death being investigated is the shooting Sept. 22, 1858, of Western District police Officer Benjamin Benton, who was killed while responding to a call on Biddle Street. FOP officials also are considering the death in October 1858 of Officer R. M. Rigdon, who was shot at home for testifying in a trial arising from Benton's death; and the death of Officer Thomas H. Burnham, who also died in 1858.

The first on-duty fatalities now listed by police occurred in 1870. Officials do not know why the earlier deaths have been omitted.

"We do not want to exclude anyone who rightfully belongs on the wall," McLhinney said.

FOP information: 410-243-9141.

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