Regional law enforcement remembered local officers who have been killed in the line of duty and honored their surviving family members Friday. Seven officers have died in uniform while serving Southwest Colorado since 1906. Officials recounted their stories during the Peace Officers Memorial Day celebration at the Durango Police Department.The only Durango police officer to die on the job is Cpl. Gale Emerson, who was honored separately with the unveiling of a new granite memorial in the department’s lobby.
“This should have been done years ago,” said Chief Jim Spratlen.
Emerson was 24 when he died in a fire on Main Avenue while trying to evacuate residents from an apartment building in 1974.
Retired police captains Dale Smith and Gary McKnight recalled Emerson as a natural police officer.
“It’s a great honor, for a great police officer,” Smith said.
The fire was set by an arsonist, Smith said. The blaze destroyed six buildings and also killed firefighter Nick Parks III and injured firefighter Ben “Butch” Gomez.
Much of the work on the memorial was donated by different businesses in the community.