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Old 04-20-2011, 10:04 AM
Location: In my house
541 posts, read 889,170 times
Reputation: 302


KALAMAZOO — For an agency that had never lost one of its own in the line of duty, gunshots that pierced the night air Monday brought a dose of the tragic reality that can come with wearing a Kalamazoo Public Safety badge.
The gunshots, fired from a high-powered rifle by a 31-year-old Kalamazoo man, fatally wounded Eric Zapata, a 35-year-old father of three and a 10-year department veteran.
“I think we’re all in a state of shock and we’re just trying, at this point, to wrap our heads around it,” said Officer D.J. Caswell, who worked closely with Zapata for six years and was to have partnered with him during their shift Tuesday.
“This is a first for this department and you don’t ever want it to be this department, but today it is, and it’s a sad day at Public Safety,” Caswell said. “It’s indescribable. We know that this is a possibility.
“It’s the nature of the beast ... but unfortunately, today it’s a reality.”
Investigators said officers had responded at 11:18 p.m. Monday to a report of gunshots fired in the 1400 block of Hays Park Avenue when an officer approached Leonard D. Statler. Statler, who was standing on a porch at 1411 Hays Park, opened fire on the officer and then fled between some houses into a nearby alley.
Police said that’s where Statler came upon Zapata and fired at the officer with a rifle, striking Zapata in the head and chest. Police said Statler then shot and killed himself.
Showing support
As news of Zapata’s death spread through the department late Monday into Tuesday, flags outside Public Safety headquarters on East Crosstown Parkway were lowered. Officers donned black bands across their badges.
View full sizeKalamazoo Officer Eric Zapata
At the scene Tuesday morning, two officers greeted each other with a handshake and an embrace, patting each other on the back.
Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley, who became emotional several times during a Tuesday afternoon news conference, described the mood within the agency as somber. He said the agency is lending support to Zapata’s family and providing help and support to officers.
“We spend as much time together as we do with our families,” Hadley said. “We experience death, tragedy ... we forge bonds that other folks don’t.”
The agency also was receiving support from other agencies from across the state. Shortly after Tuesday’s news conference, two Holland police officers arrived at KDPS headquarters to show their support and present a fruit basket to Hadley.
Denise Scarbrough, president of the Michigan Concerns of Police Survivors, said her organization also reached out to Public Safety to offer help.
“We just offer our condolences and then just let them know we are here,” said Scarbrough, whose organization provides resources to families of police officers killed on the job or gives blue ribbons during their funerals.
“It’s truly an unbelievable shock for the department. This is their loved one. This is their co-worker. This is the one they’ve spent so much time with,” said Scarbrough, whose husband, Sgt. Michael Scarbrough, was killed in the line of duty in 2005 in Wayne County. “The officers go out there everyday. They know they are potentially putting their lives on the line, yet they are the brave ones that do it.”
Scarbrough said Zapata is the third Michigan police officer killed in the line of duty this year.
Michigan State Police Trooper Jeffrey Werda, 43, was killed during a police chase in Saginaw County on April 6 and Livonia police Officer Larry Nehasil, 48, was shot and killed by a robbery suspect on Jan. 17.
‘A job to do’
Hadley said Zapata was assigned to Public Safety station 45, which covers the city’s north side, and worked a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift. He said Zapata was working Monday as part of an exchange of hours with another officer. His shift was to have ended at midnight.
Hadley said he was at home late Monday when Assistant Chief Brian Uridge phoned him with the news about Zapata.
“My mind jumped all over the map,” said Hadley, who has headed the department for nearly three years. “I was thinking about Eric’s family, the officers on the scene, the department.”
Caswell said he arrived at 6 a.m. Tuesday to station 45 expecting to begin his shift with Zapata. Instead, he received news of the fatal shooting.
“The word that keeps coming to mind is overwhelming,” Caswell said of working his shift in the wake of Zapata’s death. “We lost a friend and a co-worker and we know that we still, in spite of that, have a job to do. And I know that he would be out there.
“I feel like, if I wasn’t out there, I would be doing him an injustice.”
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Old 04-20-2011, 10:06 AM
Location: West Michigan
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Very, very sad. And then the coward killed himself. Makes me sick. My prayers are with the officer's family.
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Old 04-20-2011, 05:20 PM
Location: SE Michigan
6,191 posts, read 15,849,774 times
Reputation: 10268
I saw this story yesterday...very sad indeed.
I suppose Statler killing himself before he could be held accountable was a good thing from a public financial standpoint but I don't imagine that makes it easier for Zapata's family, friends and co-workers.
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Old 04-20-2011, 06:09 PM
89 posts, read 303,069 times
Reputation: 42
Very sad day indeed for Kalamazoo and we pray for the Zapata family.

The last time a Kalamazoo Police officer was killed in the line of duty was December 1867 when Sheriff Col. Benjamin Orcutt, a Civil War Veteran was shot in downtown Kalamazoo when he confronted two men in the early morning hours trying to break out prisoners from the jail.
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