In recognition of National Police Week and Peace Officers' Memorial Day, the latter of which falls on May 15, the Union City Police Department will host a tribute to six officers who died in the line of duty from the 1920s to the 1970s.
"On that day we honor all fallen officers throughout the country," said Officer Chris Scardino, president of Union City's Police Benevolent Association (PBA). "These [officers] gave up everything they had for us, and we should always honor those who died in the line of duty."
The department will host a memorial mass on Saturday, May 12, at the Jose Marti Middle School, which will be officiated by Police Chaplin Father S.T. Sutton, for the six men.
In addition, on Tuesday, May 15, the department will unveil a memorial monument to these six officers, which will stand at their 38th Street Headquarters. All of Union City's residents are invited to both events.
The memorial will honor Det. Lt. Charles A. Harm, who died Jan. 28, 1922; Patrol Officer Paul Scholtz, who died Aug. 31, 1929; Sgt. James Knight, who died March 5, 1931; Det. Arthur Materka, who died Jan. 21, 1938; Sgt. Arthur McKenna, who died July 10, 1941; and Det. Nicholas M. Guiardo, who died Nov. 4, 1974.
"I think it's a good thing for the department and for the profession when the department starts to recognize these fallen heroes," said Chief of Police Charles Everett. "In particular because it recognizes we're [in a line of work] where you take risks, and we take them willingly."
Preserving their memory
The memorial monument will be the first tribute to many of these fallen officers. Prior to the concept, the only tribute in existence was a memorial plaque to Det. Guirado, who was the last fatality the department has had. That plaque currently hangs at the 38th Street police headquarters.
"There was nothing for the other five," said Scardino. "I was on a mission and it was something that should have been done a long time ago."
About two months ago, Scardino came up with the concept for the memorial, and collaborated on the project with fellow officer Terry Gordon, who did the research on each of the fallen officers.
They also established the Law Enforcement Memorial Fund through the PBA and began collecting donations from throughout the department, which ranged from $10 to $100 and more. Donations also came in from fellow outside agencies such as the Fraternal Order of Policemen Local 46, which donated $1,000 to the memorial fund. The officers also received a lot of support Mayor Brian Stack and Chief Charles Everett.
"[Mayor Stack] was very supportive," said Scardino. "Anything I've asked for, he has always been very supportive of us [at the PBA], and credit is given where credit is due."
The PBA raised over $3,000 for the memorial.
"It's something that should have been done a long time ago, and we have been getting positive feedback," said Scardino.
Memorials and keepsakes
The monument, which has been kept away from prying eyes until the unveiling, is a 4-foot-by-four-foot black onyx structure. Engraved on the monument will be the names of the fallen officers underneath the phrase "Those who gave the ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten."
"There will also be a flag [next to the monument], which will always be half mast with lighting," said Scardino. "I appreciate everybody's support of the department and I'm honored to be the PBA president."
The Saturday mass begins at noon at Jose Marti Middle School, located at 1800 Summit Ave. All those who attend will receive a memorial coin commemorating the occasion, which was created by the Bex Engraving Co., Inc. in California.
The coins, which were designed by Scardino and Sutton, will feature a cemetery background with a police car, and a Union City badge with a blue and black bars going across it on one side. On the other side of the coin will be a flag in blue with six stars to symbolize each of the fallen officers.
At the mass, several officers will also be receiving numerous awards and commendations for service to the community, including the highest award, which is the Meritorious Award.
Det. Guirado's partner, Sgt. Charles Kohrherr, who has since retired, will unveil the monument memorial. Kohrherr received the highest honor in the Police Department, the Medal of Honor, for his role in the 1974 incident that took his partner's life.
Fortunately Union City hasn't had any fatalities since 1974. Advances continue to be made in training as well, and the introduction of the bulletproof vest in the 1970s especially made a difference in protection.
However, the risk is always there.
"Some of it is just good fortune," said Everett. "We go through a cycle of violence in crimes, and its always dangerous." Jessica Rosero can be reached at email@example.com. Sidebar How they died
Det. Lt. Charles A. Harm
End of Watch Jan. 28, 1922
On Jan. 28, 1922 at approximately 1 p.m., Detective Lieutenant Harm was escorting a bank messenger with $21,000 in cash. An ambush occurred at Monastery Place at which time gunfire was exchanged. During the ambush, Harm was shot three times. The suspects then grabbed the money from the messenger and fled the scene. Harm later died from the injuries sustained during the incident. The suspects were never caught. Harm left behind a wife and two children.
Police Officer Paul Scholtz
End of Watch Aug. 31, 1929
On Aug. 31, 1929 at approximately 4 a.m., Officer Scholtz, just prior to going off-duty, decided to assist Officer John Cook on a call. They responded to 201 43rd St. to assist a woman having problems with her boiler. As they entered the basement of the apartment, the two officers were met by the woman, who related that the broiler was making "funny" noises. Just then the boiler exploded, sending the officers through the air and across the basement floor. As result, three people received severe burns including Officer Cook, and one other person died at the scene. Scholtz received second and third degree burns as well as a compound fracture to his leg from the impact against the basement wall. Scholtz later died from injuries sustained from the blast.
Sgt. James Knight
End of Watch March 5, 1931
On March 5, 1931 at approximately 5 a.m., Sergeant James Knight attempted to stop a vehicle that was traveling in the wrong direction on the 400 block of 12th Street. As Knight stepped out of his unit, the occupants of the passing vehicle opened fire and struck the sergeant in the head. Officer Cuny, who was riding with Knight, returned fire and possibly struck the driver. During the investigation, it was later learned that the suspects in the vehicle were connected to an earlier robbery of $40,000 of silk. Three suspects were later apprehended. Knight left behind a wife and two daughters.
Det. Arthur Materka
End of Watch Jan. 21, 1938
Det. Arthur Materka was involved in an investigation of armed robberies that were being done throughout Hudson and Bergen counties. On Jan. 21, 1938, at approximately 8:15 a.m., Materka, with the cooperation of a grocery store owner at 21st Street and Hudson Boulevard, hid himself in the rear of the store with the hopes that the suspect would rob that store. A little while later, a suspect armed with a .45 caliber handgun came into the store and held up the owner. The owner was forced into the rear of the store and dove into a side room, according to a prearranged plan by the detective. The owner stated he then heard a shotgun blast from Materka's shotgun and two other gunshots. Coming out of the backroom thinking Materka's blast had hit its mark, the owner unfortunately found the detective lying on the floor, shot in the head. The suspect then made off with $41 and was later apprehended. Materka left behind his mother and five sisters.
Sgt. Arthur McKenna
End of Watch July 10, 1947
On July 10, 1947 at approximately 2 a.m., Sgt. Arthur McKenna sat in the Globe Diner on 417 38th St. having breakfast when Alphonse Deublein approached him from behind. Deublein was able to grab McKenna's gun and fire two shots in his back. Some customers of the restaurant were able to hold Deublein, while others ran outside and called police. Officers John Strohmeier and Norman Winters were nearby and heard the shots. They ran inside the restaurant and were able to disarm and arrest Deublein. It was later learned that Deublein was an admitted cop-hater. Sgt. McKenna was rushed to North Hudson Hospital, where he asked the officers present, "Did you get him?" They assured him they did. The sergeant then slipped into unconsciousness and died before his wife could reach his side.
Det. Nicholas M. Guirado
End of Watch Nov. 4, 1974
On Nov. 4, 1974 at approximately 5 p.m., while assigned to the Narcotics Task Force, Det. Nicholas Guirado and his partner Det. Charles Kohrherr observed suspicious parties at 49th Street and Broadway at the Rapido Taxi Stand. As the detectives approached several suspects, Guirado asked one of them for identification. The suspect replied: "I have it in the office" and walked inside. After entering the office, the suspect then pulled out a handgun and a gunfight ensued. After being shot, Guirado was able to grab the suspect's arm, which deflected the shot that was aimed at his partner's chest. With Guirado mortally wounded on the walkway and Kohrherr shot in the leg, the suspect R. Torres attempted to run from the scene. While lying on the ground, Kohrherr was able to get off five shots, which killed Torres. It was later learned the suspect who killed Guirado had shot a Florida police officer several years earlier in a similar incident. He was sentenced to 30 years for that shooting, but had escaped from prison and made his way to Union City. Guirado left behind a wife and three children.