Mourners pay final respects to officer killed helping fellow cop
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 3, 2004 11:15 AM
Phoenix police Officer Ben Baltzer choked back his emotions as he spoke of his lifelong friend.
Baltzer and Officer Jason Wolfe met in third grade and nurtured a friendship through two decades, through sports and high school, through first loves and last loves.
And when Wolfe gave up a higher paying job 4 1/2 years ago to become a police officer, the two eventually ended up in the same squad in the same police precinct.
"I looked up to him," Baltzer told mourners at Wolfe's funeral Friday morning.
Wolfe, 27, was killed with Officer Eric White, 30, in a gun battle Saturday night with a suicidal suspect. White's funeral services will be Saturday.
At a packed service at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Phoenix Friday, friends and fellow police officers remembered Wolfe as a dedicated cop with an easy smile and a hearty laugh.
Officer Patty Fimbres, Wolfe's partner, told mourners it was difficult to refer to him in the past tense.
"It just doesn't seem real to me," Fimbres said. "When am I going to wake up from this bad dream?"
She fondly recalled Wolfe's rendition of a country song and how he teased squad mates and brightened up daily briefings.
She also spoke of calling Wolfe's cellphone after his death, to hear his voice "one last time."
"I will take comfort knowing you will always be watching out for us," Fimbres said.
Commander Dave Thomas spoke of Wolfe's many commendations with the police department. In April, Wolfe was nominated for a lifesaving medal, and in March 2003, he spent all night at an apartment explosion tending to the injured.
Soon, pictures of Wolfe and White will be placed on a "Wall of Honor" at their Squaw Peak precinct. The wall honors precinct officers who have died in the line of duty. Officers walk by it every day on their way to and from briefing. Thomas said that when he looks at the wall, he is reminded of an old saying about passing the torch from one set of hands to another.
"What I hope happens with these developing officers is that they realize the sacrifice and the deep sense of responsibility in taking that torch and protecting the community," Thomas said.
Wolfe and White were killed after they kicked in the door of shooting suspect Douglas M. Tatar. White was shot first and Wolfe died when he stepped into the line of fire to pull White to safety.
"All of you, you came when you were called. That is why you are heroes," Thomas told officers. " . . . You are heroes in our community, and you are my heroes."
Fimbres called Wolfe "the bravest hero I've ever known."
"He walked the plank for this community, and he gave it all to help those he didn't even know," said John South, a Phoenix police chaplain.
Mayor Phil Gordon promised mourners he would always tell Wolfe's sons what their father stood for, lived for and died for.
"I'll never forget you, sir," Gordon said. "You will always be in my heart. You will always hold a place of honor in my life.
"Goodbye my friend."
Published in The Arizona Republic from Aug. 30 to Sep. 2, 2004.