Remarks of Secretary Ken Salazar Law Enforcement Wreath Laying Ceremony
Main Interior Building
Today, we remember and pay tribute to the 134 Department of the Interior law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty since the Department’s founding in 1849.
This roll of honor includes 80 officers from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 36 National Park Service park rangers, 10 National Park Service-US Park Police officers, and eight officers from the Fish and Wildlife Service.
One hundred and thirty-four men and women who gave their lives to protect us.
One hundred and thirty-four heroes.
Before I served as United States Senator from Colorado, I had the honor of being elected twice to be my state’s attorney general.
In that position, I traveled all 64 of Colorado’s counties meeting with law enforcement officers. I met with big city cops who patrolled mean streets. I met with the brave men and women who policed remote rural areas, often alone and far from help.
I know first-hand how difficult and dangerous law enforcement can be. It is the reason I led efforts to fight crime and make communities safer not only in Colorado but, working with other attorneys general, across the West.
As any officer in this room knows, it is a battle that never ends. And it is a battle that sometimes can be costly to those who are on the front lines.
Today, we are thankful that it has been more than three and a half years since a Department of the Interior law enforcement officer has been killed in the line of duty. I attribute this to the dedication, training and discipline that our officers demonstrate when they put on their uniform each day.
The 134 men and women we honor today were doing their duty when their lives were taken – often it happened during otherwise routine work.
The first, Captain Chin Chi Kee of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was shot and killed while apprehending whiskey smugglers in Oklahoma in 1852.
Edgar Lindgren, a 22-year-old U.S. Game Warden, died while checking the hunting licenses of three men who were shooting protected birds out of season.
United States Park Police Officer Raymond L. Hawkins died in 1972 attempting to stop a robbery at a convenience store while he was off duty. Officer Hawkins’ mother has created an annual award in his memory to the highest achieving student in the basic police training academy.
More recently, National Park Service Ranger Steve Makuakane-Jarrell was murdered a decade ago when he approached the owner of a dog that was off its leash at a national park beach in Hawai’i.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuge officer Rich Guadagno died on Flight 93 preventing terrorists from flying an airplane into the White House or Capitol on 9/11.
We also honor those with other departments and agencies who have given their lives in the past year on our nation’s public lands.
Kristine Fairbanks of the United States Forest Service died in the line of duty on September 20, 2008, near Sequim, Washington. Officer Fairbanks was killed while investigating a suspicious vehicle in the forest.
Kris had started her law enforcement career with the National Park Service before joining the Forest Service. One of her passions was the K-9 program and she trained numerous K-9 Officers from other agencies and worked side-by-side daily with rangers from the Olympic National Park. She was passionate about resource law enforcement and gave her life protecting our natural resources, employees, and the public.
US Border Patrol agent Luis Aguilar, age 31, was killed on January 19, 2008 while working on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management at the Imperial Sand Dunes in California. Aguilar was attempting to stop a suspected smuggler’s vehicle that had come across the border when the vehicle intentionally struck and killed him. Aguilar had served as an agent for six years.
We not only honor these brave officers but we also honor their families, their friends and their co-workers who have suffered such a great loss.
Joining us today is Bob Eggle, the father of National Park Service Ranger Kris Eggle. Kris was killed in the line of duty at age 28 on August 9, 2002 at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
Bob has worked tirelessly since Kris’s tragic death by promoting officer safety and calling attention to border violence issues. He has helped officers as well as government agencies and Congressional representatives better understand the issues and dangers that officers face on a daily basis.
I have been traveling the country this past few months and meeting many of you, and learning about the work that you do as law enforcement officers protecting departmental lands, helping keep our nation’s borders secure, and keeping our visitors and employees safe.
Last week I presented 11 Valor awards to officers of the department who unselfishly put their own lives at great risk doing everything from hanging from cliffs to jumping into whitewater rivers to save others. It was impressive to hear the stories of these feats of courage.
In fact, everywhere I travel, I see and hear examples of departmental officers doing things straight out of action movies.
Our officers rappel from hovering helicopters to rescue people or to raid marijuana plantations with guns drawn.
Our officers expertly run row boats down the swollen Colorado River or fly small bush planes to patrol the rugged wilderness in Alaska.
Our officers are frequently trained as wildland firefighters or paramedics in addition to their law enforcement duties.
They work in cars, planes, helicopters, boats, horses, ATV’s, bicycles, snowmobiles, skis, or hiking alone, miles from civilization in the great wilderness areas managed by the department.
I am truly humbled and I am truly proud to be your Secretary.
So today, as we honor those officers lost, we also honor the 3,321 full-time Department law enforcement officers nationwide and the 2,000 tribal law enforcement officers, who answer the late night calls to the car crashes on the icy remote highways in the winter, who work tirelessly to keep our nation’s borders safe and secure, , who keep rush hour traffic flowing on some of the busiest roads in the country, who battle drug traffickers and other criminals, and who keep safe the millions of visitors at national icons from the Statue of Liberty to Mount Rushmore.
You are all heroes. You are our heroes.
On behalf of our Department and our nation, I thank you for your service.
I join you in honoring the 134 men and women who have given their lives in the performance of their duty.
We will never forget their sacrifice.