A memorial honoring fallen Merced police officers is coming together on schedule for next month’s unveiling, though organizers are seeking about $10,000 in additional donations.
“We’re really close to our (fundraising) goal, and so far the response has been really amazing,” Officer Krista Stokes said.
The groundwork for the Merced Police Department Fallen Officer Memorial, dedicated to the memories of Officer Stephan Gray and Sgt. Edward Gerald Leap, was laid earlier this week in front of the Police Department at 611 W. 22nd St.
“We’ve had so many people donating not only funds, but their time, equipment and materials. The support has been really overwhelming,” Stokes said.
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An unveiling ceremony is scheduled at the department for April 15, the 10-year anniversary of the Gray’s death.
Gray, a seven-year department veteran, left behind a wife and three children when he was gunned down in 2004 while chasing a suspect trying to escape from a traffic stop.
“We all wanted a place for Stephen’s grandchildren to visit and learn about him and to let them know he will never be forgotten,” Stokes said.
Leap was killed Nov. 18, 1946, when his vehicle collided with a train. Leap, a World War I veteran, had been a Merced police officer for eight years.
His story was nearly lost, Stokes said.
“We had almost zero information (on Leap) from 1946, but fortunately his son still lives in town and that’s changing now,” Stokes said. “That’s something that should never happen. It’s an important piece of our history in Merced.”
Detective Joe Deleman said the memorial project is funded entirely from private donations and constructed under the direction of the Merced Police Officer’s Association. No public money is involved.
“This is a permanent reminder that people will walk past everyday,” Deleman said. “It keeps them always on our minds.”
The officers have raised nearly $50,000 toward their goal of $60,000 for the project. A “flapjack fundraiser” breakfast is scheduled for 8 a.m. March 29 at Applebee’s, 1734 W. Olive Ave.
Capt. Tom Trindad said it’s important to make a deliberate effort to remember “the police officers who paid the ultimate price.”
“Their families especially deserve to know how much their loved ones mean because they’re really the ones who’ve learned to live with the loss of someone who really should’ve been there for them their whole lives,” Trindad said.
Officers are accepting donations. For more information or to donate, call (209) 385-6912 or (209) 385-6992. Donations can also be made through the project’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mpdfallenoffmemorial.