Families of fallen officers unite in grief as names added to national memorial

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WASHINGTON — Not since 2010 has Chicago lost so many officers in the line of duty in one year.

Officers Paul Bauer, Eduardo Marmolejo, Conrad Gary and Samuel Jimenez are among 371 U.S. law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year.

Their names have been added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C.

Monday families that traveled to Washington shared their stories of grief and how they're coping with the loss.

“He was more to me than just my husband,” she said.  “He was everything.”

Five months after losing her husband, Maria Marmolejo brought her three kids to a police memorial that now bears his name.  Marmolejo’s name appears next to Gary’s.  The two died together when they were hit by a train while pursuing a shooting suspect.

His daughter Rebecca spoke at his funeral in December and said, in part, “Knowing I’ll never get to see you again breaks my heart into a million pieces.”

“I love her for that.  The words came out,” Maria Marmolejo told WGN News Monday. “She just said it for all of us even when I couldn’t say it, she said it.”

Maria Marmolejo is far from alone.  Her loss is shared by the families of the three other Chicago officers killed in the line of duty last year.

The families traveled to Washington supported by 200 Chicago officers and thousands of other members of law enforcement from around the country.

Deputy Chief George Devereux started on the job the same year as Bauer: 1986.

The two came up through the ranks together.  He remembers Bauer as a guy who loved his family, reading, craft beer and countless other passions.  At one time, Bauer commanded the city’s mounted patrol.

“No amount of someone’s name being etched on a wall somewhere, no amount of wreaths being laid, none of it amounts to closure,” Devereux said. Lieutenant Tom Cronin came to Washington still feeling the loss of his partner John Knight 20 years ago. Cronin carries Knight’s star every day and the story of how

Knight’s death two decades ago created another family.   Bauer met his wife Erin at a benefit for Knight.

“Because of that selfish act of taking someone else’s life, it’s the reason they created such a beautiful life and family,” Cronin said.  “Now Joan Knight and Erin Bauer are here together.”

It’s a bond nobody would want to share but Maria Marmolejo said the four families who suffered so much loss last year are forever connected.

“I do find strength from them.  Maybe one minute Crystal might be strong.  Maybe one minute Erin might stand taller,” she said. “We grab for each other.  But we feel bad for one another because you know how bad it feels when you go home and he’s not there and he’s not going to come through that door.”

 

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