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St. Petersburg officers, families remember fallen comrades in Washington D.C.

The black T-shirts are emblazoned with the names of three St. Petersburg officers lost in the line of duty last year: Tom Baitinger, David Crawford and Jeffrey Yaslowitz. Already familiar locally, the shirts were out in force this weekend in Washington, D.C.

More than 250 members of the St. Petersburg Police Department and their families traveled to the capitol for National Police Week to see the names of the city's fallen officers added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

But what struck St. Petersburg Maj. Melanie Bevan was how many different T-shirts there were.

"Everywhere you looked, you had people with pictures of their fallen heroes on their shirts," she said. "We were all turning to each other and saying how sorry we were."

The St. Petersburg contingent's busy week will end today when Baitinger, Crawford and Yaslowitz are honored as their families and fellow officers watch on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building. The ceremony will remember the 162 officers who died in the line of duty last year and the 199 officers whose past deaths recently came to light.

"Since this tragedy, the Tampa Bay area has come to know Jeff, Tom and Dave as local heroes," Bevan said. "But (today) they become national heroes. I can't imagine a more fitting tribute for the three of them."

Lorraine Yaslowitz, whose husband died along with Baitinger on Jan. 24, 2011, took her three children to the ceremonies. She also ran in Saturday morning's 5K memorial run with four officers, including Bevan. Later that day, the St. Petersburg group watched as 12 of their own biked with the Police Unity Tour.

On Sunday, the St. Petersburg group had breakfast near the White House at a famous local haunt, the Old Ebbitt Grill. Paige Baitinger, wife of the fallen sergeant, paid for the breakfast, but did not attend.

Baitinger's parents hosted the breakfast in their son's honor. Detective Mark Marland spoke about his friend to the crowd and reminded them that breakfast was Baitinger's favorite meal.

The candlelight vigil was Sunday night. Amanda Crawford attended the ceremony in honor of her father, David, who died Feb. 21, 2011.

Then on Monday, four sergeants from St. Petersburg's honor guard — Ed Borrelli, Marlin Heyward, Tim Montanari and Frank Williams — laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

"It was a great, great honor for us to be allowed to do that," Bevan said.

St. Petersburg officers, families remember fallen comrades in Washington D.C. 05/14/12 [Last modified: Monday, May 14, 2012 11:45pm]
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