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St. Petersburg police honor fallen heroes at candlelight vigil

ST. PETERSBURG — On his leather vest, retired St. Petersburg police officer Stu Crisco wore his longtime partner's name: In Memory of Officer Dave Crawford.

He held a white candle and spoke of the night when Crawford — a 25-year force veteran and Crisco's best friend — was shot five times by a 16-year-old boy.

"For no reason. No reason at all," Crisco said. "He left behind a wife, a daughter. It was a lot harder to go on after Dave."

Officers and their friends and families gathered Monday evening for a candlelight vigil at the St. Petersburg Police Law Enforcement Memorial at Demens Landing Park to honor those killed in the line of duty.

It was the first year of the memorial service since the monument was completed in October. The city plans to hold the service every year in May.

The 15 names recited at the ceremony Monday evening spanned 106 years — from Chief of Police James J. Mitchell in 1905 to Crawford, the latest casualty, in 2011.

Above the bay, a flag waved half-mast. A man played Amazing Grace on bagpipes.

Mayor Bill Foster addressed roughly 100 officers, from rookies to retirees, and their families, many wiping tears.

"We honor the fallen," he said, "those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their brothers, their sisters — people they didn't even know. Tonight we say, 'Thank you.' "

Wind blew strong, and rain began to fall, so attendees did not light the ceremonial candles. Instead, as a sergeant advised, they saved the flames for a quiet reflection at home.

In the crowd, Joan DeKay, wife of Assistant Police Chief David DeKay, silently gave thanks. Thirty years ago, during her husband's first night shift, he rushed to an armed robbery at a St. Petersburg gas station. The gunman fired at her husband, she said, and a bullet grazed his shoulder.

"It was a close call," she said. "I feel so much gratitude. Most people don't realize what they do every day."

Danielle Paquette can be reached at dpaquette@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4224.

St. Petersburg police honor fallen heroes at candlelight vigil 05/20/13 [Last modified: Monday, May 20, 2013 11:33pm]
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