Fallen officers from history honored at state memorial | News
CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS)- Fallen heroes were recognized at Illinois' Police Memorial Thursday. A group of southern Illinois police officers killed in the line of duty more than 100 years ago are among the names now etched in stone.
"Things happen, and they happen quick," said retired Carbondale Police Sgt. Mark Diedrick. "You've got a split second to make a decision, life or death, and sometimes it comes out good. Sometimes it doesn't come out so good."
After 28 years as a police officer, Mark Diedrick knows firsthand the dangers of carrying a badge. He didn't know the circumstances surrounding the death of another officer in his family tree.
"My brother and I had heard he may have been some sort of law enforcement, deputy sheriff or whatever in Ullin and that he was killed. That's all the story we had," said Diedrick.
That is, until Paul Echols, a retired Carbondale cop turned historical detective, came across an old newspaper article.
"Mark and I served on the Carbondale police department 27 years together and I never knew this," Echols said. "We we talked about a lot of things but somehow just like his great-grandfathers case - it seems to have gotten lost in history. So when I recognized the name I called Mark and he confirmed that this was his great grandpa."
The article from May 1897 describes Constable Diedrick's pursuit of some gamblers from Ullin to Wetaug. That's where a confrontation ended in a hail of gunfire. Diedrick was hit, but fired back- killing his assailant on the spot. Even though he won the gun battle, the constable died four days later from his injuries.
"I've always heard things passed down through the family, but to know that it did it happen that way, and the events leading up to it," said Mark's brother Alan Diedrick. "To know that he was trying to protect life and property - it's it was pretty touching."
Echols' research is helping to honor 10 southern Illinois policemen whose deaths in the line of duty were nearly forgotten. The sacrifices of Constable Diedrick and four others were recognized Thursday in Springfield. Their names are now etched in stone on the Illinois police memorial. Echols is working to make sure the names of five additional fallen officers from southern Illinois join them next year.
"All of these cases these were men who put on the star, or the badge, put on the gun and left just like any other morning but never came home," said Echols. "The families suffer because of it. The Diedrick family would've been the same way. I know from the newspaper article that the death of Constable Diedrick devastated the family. That doesn't just affect the family at that moment - it affects the family for years, sometimes generations."
Echols is also working to get those 10 fallen officers added to the National Police Memorial in Washington, D.C.
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