Memorial for fallen DPS Officer Huffman unveiled
By Chris McDaniel, Yuma Sun staff writer | Posted: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 10:30 pm
Memorials to Arizona Department of Public Safety fallen officers (from left) Timothy Huffman, Sgt. Michael Crowe and officer Louis Cochran were dedicated and re-dedicated during a special ceremony Tuesday morning at the District 4 office, 2111 E. Gila Ridge Rd. Huffman’s memorial was dedicated on the one-year anniversary of the officer’s death on May 6, 2013, on Interstate 8 east of Yuma. The memorials to Crowe, killed in July 1995, and Cochran, killed in December 1958, were re-dedicated after being moved to the new location at the District 4 office.
Before he died while on duty May 6, 2013, Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Timothy Huffman hoped that, should he ever lose his life in the line of duty, he would be remembered.
Judging from the tremendous crowd of public officials, chiefs of police and dozens of fellow DPS officers at the unveiling of a memorial in his honor Tuesday morning, his legacy of public service will never be forgotten.
“He would be overjoyed, delighted, that he is going to be remembered and not forgotten,” said Officer Huffman’s twin brother, Warren Huffman. “I think the family is overjoyed that nobody is forgetting.”
The memorial marker lists Officer Huffman’s name and the date of his death in the line of duty — known to those in law enforcement as “end of watch.” It was unveiled before a large audience at the DPS Sector 4 Yuma headquarters on the corner of Pacific Avenue and East Gila Ridge Road.
“I think it is a really great thing DPS has done for us … so people can see what a great officer Tim was,” said his elder brother, Paul Huffman.
During the ceremony, which fell on the one year anniversary of Huffman’s line of duty death, two other markers honoring DPS Officer Louis Cochran and DPS Sergeant Michael Crowe were also rededicated.
Cochran died in the line of duty on Dec. 22, 1958, when his patrol car was struck from behind by a vehicle operated by a drunk driver while stopped along U.S. 80 at milepost 71 east of Dateland.
Crowe was shot to death along with Yuma Police Department Lt. Dan Elkins on July 4, 1995, after they arrived at the Southwest Border Alliance headquarters building near the Yuma International Airport.
Officer Huffman was on scene helping investigate an injury collision on Interstate 8, 40 miles east of Yuma, when a tanker truck failed to yield to the closure of the No. 2 lane on the highway. The driver of the semi-truck, 33-year-old Jorge Espinoza, first collided with a parked patrol car, which then crashed into Huffman’s patrol car. Huffman was seated inside his patrol car writing a report and was killed by the force of the impact. He was 47 years old.
“In conjunction of honoring the memories of Officer Louis Cochrane and Sgt. Micahel Crowe, who were killed in the line of duty … I am specifically honored about my twin brother who was killed in the line of duty one year ago this day,” Warren told the audience during the ceremony. “On behalf of my entire family, I deeply appreciate the opportunity to help give public recognition to this valuable project and the officers we are honoring today.”
During the ceremony, DPS Director Robert Halliday said those who had gathered were there to “celebrate life – to say thanks for all that the law enforcement community … do in keeping this nation safe. Today is a tough day. There are mixed emotions that are going through each and every one of us, especially the families. Please know their plight … was honorable. I really believe … that we are called to this duty. This is a profession that I don’t think we choose. I think it chooses us.”
Officer Huffman’s father and three brothers traveled to Yuma to participate in the ceremony Tuesday. While driving into Yuma along Interstate 8, they passed the spot of his death, which is also marked in his honor.
“It brings back the memory,” said Officer Huffman’s brother Tom Huffman. “It hurts, but it feels good to see it there to know he is going to be remembered.”
Officer Huffman’s death has created “a void that can’t be filled,” Tom added. “We just think about him all the time. Coming to events like this – it’s like a double edged sword. It is very nice to come here and honor him, but it also dredges up the memories.”
The Arizona Highway Patrol Association (AHPA) — founded in 1958 to promote the positive role of law enforcement professionals and to protect and secure rights and benefits for their members through effective representation with local, state and national governments — led the initiative to erect the memorials.
The money and material necessary for Officer Huffman’s memorial were donated from members of the community. After the site was prepared by local Boy Scouts, the memorial was erected by Ryan Oglesby Construction Inc., free of charge.
The memorials were made possible “thanks to the generous contributions of the local community here in Yuma,” said AHPA President Jimmy Chavez, a 24-year veteran of DPS. “It is fitting that we are gathered today for this dedication and rededication. These men were part of this community they served, and now this community will continue to know and never forget their sacrifices. To their family members, and to those of us that wear the uniform, it is our commitment to keep their memory and legacy alive.”
There are similar memorials to each of the 29 DPS officers killed in the line of duty throughout Arizona.
“We honor their memories and their legacy,” Chavez said, adding the memorials show the families of those who have died “that we haven’t forgotten their legacy. We want to make sure the families know they are still part of our family. Even though the officers are no longer with us here, their family is still part of the DPS family.”
Chavez once worked with Officer Huffman and remembers him fondly.
“Tim loved being a highway patrolman. His passion was … making sure that he was making a difference in the community and helping people. That was his No. 1 goal. He had a great sense of humor and loved playing practical jokes on people. He absolutely loved this job.”
While honoring those who have been lost, the memorials also somberly remind those currently serving in law enforcement that their line of work can potentially call for the ultimate sacrifice.
“We put on the uniform every day knowing there is an air of danger to the job,” Chavez said. “Those of us that do that day-in, day-out — we understand that.”
While a high honor, it is Chavez’s sincere hope no more names will be added to the memorial in the future.
“That would be absolutely amazing,” he said. “Our goal is when we put on our uniform and take our shift that we go home at the end of the night.”