RALEIGH — On Sept. 1, 1922, Raleigh police officer Tom G. Crabtree responded to reports of a gas station robbery.
“He called for help, but he didn’t wait for the help,” his nephew Charles Atkinson, 94, said Tuesday. “He went in and got shot. They laid him out on the cement and ran over his body back and forth to make sure that he was dead.”
More than 90 years later, city officials invited Crabtree’s family and the families of seven other Raleigh police officers who have died in the line of duty to a ceremony in front of City Hall to break ground on a memorial honoring the department’s fallen officers. The memorial is scheduled to be completed by early summer.
The memorial was designed by Thomas Sayre of the design firm Clearscapes. It will feature 21 granite columns at one end of a 64-foot-long water table and a single column at the opposite end, bearing the names of the eight officers killed since the 1920s. The table, which will reflect the sky, will have eight holes representing each fallen officer, and the holes will be lit from below at night.
“The idea is that this isn’t a gravesite,” Sayre said after the brief ceremony Tuesday. “This is a celebration of service – something that inspires.”
The Raleigh Police Memorial Foundation, a group of active and retired police officers, planned the memorial and raised money to create it. The foundation is $20,000 short of the $500,000 needed to design and build the memorial, said foundation president Dennis Lane.
“It’s a daily reminder in front of City Hall honoring the sacrifices that these officers made,” Lane said.
Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown described the memorial as an inspiring tribute that will “impact so many people for generations to come.
“While we have lost an officer, you have lost parents, a brother, a sister, a son, a daughter,” Deck-Brown said to the families of the fallen officers. “Today we can truly say they are not forgotten.”
Crabtree was the first Raleigh officer to die in the line of duty. Three of the eight officers died of gunshots. The others died in motor vehicle accidents, including the most recent, Charles Radford Paul III, who died in 2002 when he lost control of his motorcycle as he was trying to catch up with a speeding car on the Beltline.
Mike Atkinson, Crabtree’s great-nephew, took his uncle Charles to Washington in March to see the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
“We saw (Crabtree’s) name on the national memorial,” said Mike Atkinson, a retired officer with the Norfolk, Va., Police Department. “It’s kind of different here. This is where he worked. It’s an honor.”