SUNRISE (CBS4) – For three years, Plantation Police Officer Chris Stilwell has been on a mission.
As director of the Police Honor Guard of Broward County, Stilwell wanted to create a proper memorial to all the law enforcement officers who’ve died on duty in Broward County. He estimates there have been more than 60 officers who’ve died since 1914.
Tuesday was a milestone day for his mission.
That’s the day Broward County Commissioners gave final approval to his plan to build a memorial in picturesque Markham Park in Sunrise.
“It’s just gonna be a state of the art complex that we can pay the highest honor that we can back to our fallen brothers and sisters,” Stilwell told CBS 4’s Carey Codd.
The memorial will have a long walkway — about 100 feet – filled with dedicated bricks. The main part of the memorial will feature two small reflecting pools, a flag court and a wall with the names of the deceased officers engraved in it.
“It’s gonna be a very warm and inviting complex for people to come into,” Stilwell said.
Miriam Fernandez calls the memorial “a dream come true.” Her son, Hollywood Police Office Alex Del Rio, was killed in a traffic crash in November 2008. Del Rio was trying to catch a speeding driver when he swerved to miss a taxicab driver.
Fernandez said the setting in Markham Park will convey feelings of mixture of respect, reflection and tranquility.
“It’s painful,” Fernandez said. “It’s always going to be there — the pain — but at least we can go to a place where we can have peace. A serene place where we can remember them.”
Another of the names that will be etched on the wall is that of BSO Detective Todd Fatta. He was killed in 2004 when he was serving a warrant on Kenneth Wilk, a registered sex offender.
Fatta’s mother Josephine called it “an honor” that her son would forever be remembered on the memorial.
“I think it’s great,” she said, choking back tears. “My son wanted to be in law enforcement and then it ended in such a tragedy in 2004. I’m glad they’re remembering my son and the other fallen officers in this memorial.”
The memorial is being built with private and public donations. Stilwell estimates about $300,000 of the construction and materials costs have been donated. Stilwell said the design for the memorial is based on a memorial for fallen officers in Miami-Dade at Tropical Park.
A groundbreaking for the memorial — which will encompass one acre in Markham Park — is scheduled for February 26 at noon. Organizers hope to complete the memorial by May 2012.