Rose foundation's memorial markers keep memory of fallen officers alive
Chris Powell, president of the Collin Rose Memorial Foundation, talks about his best friend and fallen Wayne State University Police Sgt. Collin Rose. The Detroit News
Detroit — Over the last year, the Officer Collin Rose Memorial Foundation has expanded beyond ensuring that one officer’s loss is never forgotten to see that other fallen officers are also remembered — even if their deaths took place decades ago.
The result is more than two-dozen blue memorial markers, clustered mostly in Midtown, but also in suburbs such as Clinton Township and Grosse Pointe Farms, telling the stories of how officers died in the line of duty at the location where they fell, or as close to it as possible. Another five go up this spring, said Chris Powell, president of the foundation.
Collin Rose, a 29-year-old Wayne State University police officer, was shot while attempting a Nov. 22, 2016, traffic stop near Lincoln and Brainard. He died the next day, the first WSU officer to ever die in the line of duty.
Powell was Rose’s training officer and became his best friend.
“The friendship grew out of working together and training, and continued with us going to funerals together, doing the police unity tour together,” Powell said. “Honoring the fallen is a big part of what Collin was about.”
In service to the mission they traveled to Boston, Washington, D.C., and many points between.
‘Never...in a million years’
The very first memorial marker the foundation placed, Powell said, was in honor of Detroit police Officer Patrick “Wolverine" Hill, who was hit by friendly fire on April 2, 2013, during a shootout with a murder suspect at Linwood and Hooker, on the city’s west side.
He died from his injuries six months later, on Oct. 19, 2013, leaving behind wife Deodge and four children.
“I probably have my roughest day on April 2, but I relive it every year,” Deodge Hill said. “I keep retracing my steps, the woulda-coulda-shouldas, the ‘what if he had stayed home that day’? It doesn’t feel like it’s been six years.”
In 2015, she created the PH1LL Foundation in her husband’s honor. Every year on the first week of April, the foundation hosts a 5K fundraiser, which coincides with Patrick Hill’s last day of work. The fourth fundraiser took place Saturday on Detroit’s RiverWalk. In three years, $20,000 was raised and distributed mostly in emergency grants to single mothers for things like rent, day care and car repairs, Hill said.
At the foundation’s first 5K event, back in 2016, Hill was approached by a tall, friendly cop, who said: “We’re getting a K-9 at Wayne State. I was wondering if we could name it after Patrick?
“Oh, absolutely!” Hill said to the man, Collin Rose.
The dog was named Wolverine.
“My biggest fear is that something would happen to the dog, and my kids would be devastated,” Hill said. “I never thought, in a million years, that something would happen to Collin. That was the last thing I thought was possible.”
That October, K-9 Wolverine officially joined Rose's side at a ceremony. Afterward, dozens of police officers released balloons in Hill's honor.
A month later, Rose was shot in the head while investigating a case involving Raymond Durham, who had allegedly shot two Detroit police officers. He died the next day, on Nov. 23.
These days, the PH1LL 5K honors both officers, Hill said. It connects two men who never met but whose stories are forever connected.
'Waiting for our day in court'
On the corner of Cass and Palmer, a blue sign tells the story of Detroit police Officer Sidney O’Connor’s death on Jan. 17, 1956.
“Officers Sidney O’Connor and Michael Babiuk responded to a reported robbery at 11:19 p.m. on January 17, 1956. As they arrived, they learned the suspect was still inside the Piccadilly Bar that once stood here at 5700 Cass Avenue. Entering, they saw four men standing at the bar. Suddenly, one of the men turned and opened fire, striking O’Connor. Both officers returned fire, killing the suspect. O’Connor died during transport to the hospital. He was 28 and had served the agency for three years. He was survived by his pregnant wife, daughter and son. He was posthumously awarded the agency’s Medal of Valor. A local woman was later convicted of providing the murder weapon.”
“This was a story that fell between the cracks,” Powell said. “The business that was here (Piccadilly Bar) was long since gone, due to Wayne State’s expansion. We wanted his story told. This was one of the first signs we put up.”
The Detroit News reported the next day that O'Connor "had faced a loaded gun and lived twice before in recent months." The first time, the gun jammed. The second, O'Connor tackled and disarmed the gunman.
The third time, he died after being shot in the hand and then the back.
The foundation learns of officers' stories using official police reports, when possible, along with media reports from the time. It has an Ancestry.com account to connect to officers' families.
"We try, along with the family, to craft a narrative that works," Powell said.
Anthony Holt, chief of police at Wayne State, said the department is creating a memorial garden with a plaque bearing the name of its first and only fallen officer, along with a lighted flag pole, in the department's parking lot. The light means the flag won’t have to be pulled down at night and reflown in the morning, he said.
“I also intend to do another (memorial garden) on the campus,” Holt said. “I want the university, the students, to know that when they’re walking around (safe), there’s a reason for that. Someone lost their life to get us here.”
This spring, a brown sign will declare the Lodge Freeway, between Grand River and Interstate 94, the Sergeant Collin Rose Memorial Highway. Rose was promoted to sergeant posthumously.
Former State Sen. Coleman Young II, now principal of a Detroit-based consulting firm bearing his name, shepherded the necessary legislation.
"It's one of the things I'm most proud of," Young said.
Of the more than two dozen memorial markers placed, none yet tell Rose’s story, because his story is still being written, Powell said. To this point, suspect Raymond Durham has been declared unfit to stand trial.
“We’re holding off,” Powell explained. “We’re kind of waiting to see how all that shakes out. We don’t want to put a sign up and have to take it down. We’re still waiting for our day in court.”