Father, son to spread tale of slain Mt. Pleasant police chief
The tragic, local story of late Mt. Pleasant Borough Police Chief Denver Braden Pore may become known to all of America.
Pore, who in 1906 became the borough's only officer ever killed in the line of duty, has recently become the talk of Mt. Pleasant largely due to the ongoing work of Rick Meason.
“Right now, I'm working with the borough (manager) Jeff Landy and (councilwoman) Cindy Stevenson and (councilman) Larry Tate, to form a committee to design a memorial and come up with a fundraising strategy,” said Meason, 31, who since 2013, has served as president of the Mt. Pleasant Area Historical Society.
“It's still in its infancy,” he said.
Meanwhile, the father-son team of Erich “Rick” Geppert III and Erich “Rocky” Geppert has stepped up to see that all of America understands Pore's story and sacrifice.
Rocky Geppert, 20, of Oakmont is an auxiliary police officer with the municipality's police department. Rick Geppert works as a full-time Oakmont policeman.
Together, they serve as volunteer case investigators for the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial of Allegheny County.
The nonprofit organization pays tribute to law enforcement officers from Allegheny County who made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as officers who grew up in Allegheny County but lost their lives elsewhere, Geppert said.
“Usually someone will tell our county memorial about someone who deserves to be honored, and they'll give the information to us,” Rocky Geppert said.
Duo says tale of historic sorrow must be told
Occasionally, the Gepperts' focus and efforts shift to fallen, out-of-county officers such as Pore, whose death caught their attention more than a year ago as they were conducting research on genealogy website, Ancestry.com, he said.
On April 5, 1906, the 25-year-old Pore was gunned down in the line of duty while attempting to arrest Andrew Lindsay Jr., a 22-year-old man who reportedly was intoxicated and firing off the weapon indiscriminately about town while accompanied by his friend, Thomas Wilson, Meason said.
Pore died of his wounds two days later, and Lindsay was never apprehended.
“One thing that stuck out to us was that the person who killed Chief Pore was never brought to justice,” Rocky Geppert said.
Soon after, the Gepperts turned over the information they gathered about Pore to Chris Cosgriff, who founded the Officer Down Memorial Page in 1996.
A brief summary of Pore's story was eventually added to the website.
“(The Gepperts) have been sending us information since 2009, and they have been instrumental in uncovering forgotten officers from the Pittsburgh area,” said Cosgriff, full-time police officer with Fairfax County Police Department in Fairfax, Va.
“Pittsburgh is a unique area for law enforcement because there are so many little agencies that have suffered so many losses over the years.”
Because the region seems to have a very high concentration of police line-of-duty deaths that have been forgotten, Cosgriff said, the work of the Gepperts to scour through old newspapers and records for these officers is of paramount importance.
“(Their) research not only is of tremendous value to the history of law enforcement nationwide, because (they are) allowing the stories of these heroes to be recognized and told at a national level.
Now, the Gepperts are seeking to have Pore's name added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C.
A local cause merits national scope
Earlier this month, Rocky Geppert emailed Meason through Ancestry.com after noticing a family tree of Pore's family that Meason was compiling on the site. Meason's goal is to establish a statue memorializing him in front of the borough police department at 1 Etze Ave.
“He asked me for copies of the newspaper articles and a photo,” Meason said.
“I support and appreciate the efforts of Rocky and his father to memorialize Chief Pore on a national level, while I am trying to do so locally.”
Rocky Geppert said he has never stumbled on a case involving a slain officer in need of remembrance outside of Allegheny County based on word of mouth.
“Usually, when I go outside of Allegheny County, it's from a newspaper article,” he said.
The Gepperts also access the Pennsylvania death indices, which offers records of an officer's name, date, place and manner of death, he said.
They even pay out-of-pocket for the officer's death certificate.
“That helps us out, because it confirms the death of the officer and the department with which they served,” Rocky Geppert said.
Each year, the Gepperts work to document cases of fallen officers to submit them for review by the national memorial's staff by an annual deadline of Dec. 31.
This year, the names of 16 officers from Pennsylvania will be added to the national memorial. Most of them resulted from the work of the Gepperts.
“Twelve of the 16 officers to be named were from Allegheny County, and 11 of those 12 we either discovered or were assigned to investigate,” Rocky Geppert said.
Late Connellsville officer made 2013 national list
In 2013, the Gepperts' efforts helped make late Connellsville Policeman McCray Robb an addition to both the ODMP website and the national memorial 131 years after his death.
Rick Geppert learned of Robb's death via an online newspaper archive and began digging with his son, he said.
“We traveled to Uniontown to the courthouse to review records,” Rick Geppert said.
“We woundup going through a Civil War database and the 1880 census to find him.”
Robb — a Union Army 110th Regiment veteran of that war — was shot twice and killed on May 25, 1882, by a man named Bayard Low.
At the time, Robb was assisting another officer in the arrest of Low and his brother, Jefferson Low, during a drunken altercation at the Barrett Circus that was visiting the city.
Robb, who was 33, is buried in Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Connellsville.
“We have about 10 more cases we're working on to see if the facts corroborate that it was a line-of-duty death,” Rick Geppert said.
Oakmont Police Chief David R. DiSanti Sr. expressed pride in the Gepperts' dedication to remembering fallen officers.
“I just think it's a wonderful bond between father and son to be doing work that is this important,” said DiSanti, who serves as chaplain for both the Western Pennsylvania and Allegheny County police chiefs associations, and the FBI — Western Pennsylvania National Academy.
“You can't imagine what it means to families of these officers that this work is being done,” he said.
Any Allegheny County officer that is committed to the national memorial will also be added to the county memorial located near Pittsburgh's World War II Memorial on the “Great Lawn” at North Shore Drive and Art Rooney Boulevard on the city's North Side.
More information on the group can be found on Facebook.
Gepperts believe in Chief Pore's legacy
In the coming weeks, Rocky Geppert said he and his father plan to prepare all the official paperwork related to the application for placement of Chief Pore's name on the national memorial.
“All I need to do is get the chief of police in Mt. Pleasant (Stephen Ober) to sign the paperwork,” he said.
“We will then mail it to the national memorial committee, and they'll put it aside until January.”
Ober said he welcomes any opportunity to contribute to the effort at hand.
“I think it's a good idea, and I'm a proud that somebody is being memorialized from a department that I've served with for so long,” Ober said.
“I've buried a lot of my friends in my 35 years on the job. Being a policeman, you take it personally when a policeman is killed, because it's like a brotherhood.”
After the turn of the year, the national memorial committee will hold a series of meetings to decide which of the registered slain officers will be added to the national memorial in 2015.
Each officer will be judged on their individual sense of duty, and whether or not it is believed that they died while acting in performance of duty.
“I'm almost certain that Chief Pore meets those qualifications,” Rocky Geppert said.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.