Memorial in Merced to honor two fallen officers

Original design ideas are wanted for project

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comAugust 16, 2013 

— The Merced County Arts Council is asking artists for original design ideas for a police memorial to honor two fallen officers: Stephan Gray and Sgt. Edward Gerald Leap.

The memorial will be installed in front of the Merced Police Department at 611 W. 22nd St. The selected artist will receive $500 for the design concept.

The project theme is "Blessed are the Peacemakers," said Laura Phillips, Merced County Arts Council executive director. The memorial is intended to celebrate the lives and sacrifices of Gray and Leap.

"The Police Department reached out to us, and we're honored to be able to help them because they put their lives on the line every day for us," Phillips said. "We just want to honor the officers' service and sacrifice, and show the community that we won't forget."

Gray was killed April 15, 2004, while conducting a traffic stop. The passenger of the vehicle broke free and ran, and Gray pursued him on foot. The man opened fire on Gray, striking him twice.

Leap was killed Nov. 18, 1946, when his vehicle collided with a train. Leap, a World War I veteran, was an eight-year police veteran.

Merced police officer Krista Stokes knows firsthand about losing a family member in the line of duty. Her father was killed in Alameda in 1983, and a memorial was established there in his honor.

"I just want us to build something for the families of these officers that will make them feel as proud as I did," Stokes said. "Thirty years from now, I want officer Gray's children to have a place to go with their children and say, 'That was my dad.' "

The memorial is scheduled to be unveiled on April 15, 2014, on the 10-year anniversary of Gray's death.

The project will be funded with donations and through fund-raising, Stokes said. To make a donation, contact Stokes at (209) 385-6912 or by email at stokesk@cityofmerced.org.

Proposals are due Sept. 12. An informational meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Merced County Arts Council on 645 W. Main St.

For more information, visit www.artsmerced.org/call-for-entries.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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