Skip to comments.Permanent memorial to be tribute to TPD Officer Hite, slain on duty (Eagle Project)
Posted on 11/24/2008 2:19:50 PM PST by SandRat
On June 1, the lives of three strangers intersected. That night, Tucson police Officer Erik Hite, mortally wounded in an ambush that followed a crosstown pursuit, clung to his last hours of life in a hospital room. Kyle Kadous, a middle school student, talked about what had happened earlier that day with his father, an officer with the Tucson Police Department. And he imagined, for a terrible moment, that it could have been his own family.
Lori Oien, whose husband is a 29-year veteran with the state Department of Public Safety, lives two blocks from the rural, East Side site where Hite was shot. She'd heard the gunshots and the whomp-whomp-whomp of the police helicopter rotors. That night she brought an American flag to the site to do what she could to honor the four-year veteran of the force.
Kadous and Oien didn't know the 43-year-old Hite personally, they didn't know each other, and they are separated by a few generations and a crosstown trip. That didn't stop a partnership from taking root to make sure a permanent memorial to Hite's valor replaces the simple white cross that marks the area now. The two spent Saturday afternoon sprinkling wildflower seeds at the site, which they hope will someday be a covered area with benches and a fountain.
Kadous has been in the Boy Scouts for five years and is helping to coordinate the memorial for his Eagle Scout project.
"I thought this community and this whole town need to know about this fallen officer, and that he gave his life to serve and protect all of us," said the 13-year-old, an eighth-grader at Cross Middle School, in Amphitheater Public Schools.
"He needs to be remembered as a hero."
It's also a personal quest, he said.
"If that was my dad who had been killed just to think of the trouble and hardship I'd have to endure, it makes me feel really bad inside."
The site of the new memorial, set aside by the Powder Horn Homeowners Association, will be across the street and just slightly east from where Hite was shot and where an impromptu memorial sprang up in the weeks after his death. Authorities say David "Nick" Delich, 26, also injured two Pima County Sheriff's Department deputies in the pursuit. He remains in the Pima County jail on $3.5 million bond.
Oien, president of the Bear Canyon Neighborhood Association, knows firsthand that the community is yearning for a place where people can remember Hite. "He left his home that morning and said goodbye to his family, not knowing that would be the last time," Oien said. "He went out to serve Tucson and protect us, and that's what he did."
The flag she brought reflected not only Hite's police service but also his 21 years in the Air Force. Over 16 days, more people brought items to join the flag. A 20-foot tent went up to shade visitors. A table and chairs were set up. Firefighters brought water to guard against dehydration in the early summer heat.
Visitors left flowers, plants, pins, baseball caps and notes. Children wrote letters to the father of two.
After the shrine was taken down, the mementos were given to Hite's family, and volunteers from law enforcement and the neighborhood cleared weeds and trimmed trees on the land.
Nohemy Hite, the slain officer's 31-year-old widow, said she couldn't muster the strength to go to the site, but she was overwhelmed when she received nine plastic bins full of remembrances. Even last week, someone left a bouquet of flowers.
"It makes me feel that the community really was touched and hurt by what happened, and I'm just so thankful and overwhelmed by the support that people have given us," she said, her voice shaking with emotion.
She had just begun sorting through the bins to find appropriate pieces for the memorial.
She has seen photos of the proposed memorial, she said, and is glad that her husband's picture will be there. She hopes she will be able to go to the dedication on the first anniversary of Hite's death, but she couldn't promise she would be able to face it because her grief is still so raw.
The site is expected to include a shade cover made of steel, in the shape of a tree, along with several concrete benches, which may have some of the mementos pressed into them. A drinking fountain would provide relief for the area's many bikers and joggers and their four-legged friends.
Organizers also hope to plant a tree.
"The branches and leaves represent all of us as individuals, but when they come together, that represents the community coming together to make one big, strong tree," Oien said.
She said Kadous has been a strong partner in what she anticipates will be a $10,000 project, coming up with ideas and lobbying businesses for assistance in short, showing the leadership that he needs to demonstrate to earn his rank.
Kadous said he can't shake the feeling he has at the site, when he thinks of the lives changed so deeply in such a short time.
"I feel hopeful, though," he said. "It feels good when people and organizations want to help with this. And when I'm done, I'm going to feel good to know that I've helped this officer be recognized."
● Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at 806-7754 or at email@example.com.
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WRM, MSgt, USAF(Ret.)