Late Mt. Pleasant police chief's name is added to national memorial
It's a process Erich “Rocky” Geppert and his father, Oakmont Police Officer Erich “Rick” Geppert III, have seen through to fruition dozens of times — the nomination of a police officer killed in the line of duty for inscription on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Regardless of the dozens of individuals the duo has helped honor, the final step never loses its luster, said the younger Geppert, 21, an Oakmont auxiliary officer.
“In the years I've been doing this, there's no greater feeling than to see an officer who has made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty finally recognized on the memorial,” he affirmed.
The Gepperts' efforts recently touched on a local legacy, as they traveled to the nation's capital to attend National Police Week, an event highlighted by the induction of 31 officers into the memorial, 26 of which the father-son team nominated for the honor.
One of them was the late Mt. Pleasant Borough Police Chief Denver Braden Pore.
“Chief Pore's death was pretty clear — it was one of those clear-cut cases,” said the elder Geppert, 58.
“It took over 100 years for him to be honored in such a way. It's too bad there wasn't any family of his left to see it.”
Century-old cold case is recounted
In 1906, Pore became the borough's only officer ever killed in the line of duty.
In late 2012, the Gepperts first learned of Pore's story and began the process of nominating him for enshrinement to the national memorial.
On April 5, 1906, Pore was shot by Andrew Lindsay Jr. as Pore attempted to arrest the 22-year-old man who was intoxicated and firing a pistol about town.
Two days later, Pore — a husband and father of two — died of his wounds. He was 25.
Lindsay fled town and was never apprehended for his crime.
The Gepperts serve as volunteer case investigators for the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial of Allegheny County, a nonprofit organization that pays tribute to law enforcement officers from the county who died in the line of duty.
Occasionally, the Gepperts' focus shifts 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 a genealogy website.
Local historian lauds duo's efforts
In March 2013, the Gepperts contacted Rick Meason, president of the Mt. Pleasant Area Historical Society, after noticing a family tree detailing Pore's lineage that Meason was compiling on Ancestry.com.
Meason has brought the Pore tragedy to light locally in a way that compelled an anonymous donor to the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery Association to finance the creation and installation of a stone in Pore's memory near the burial ground's main entrance, where he was interred following his death.
Recently, borough council announced that it will consult with Meason to devise an appropriate renaming of a portion of an extension of Eagle Street unofficially referred to as Cooper's Alley, where Pore was shot by Lindsay.
“We want to rename it Pore Way,” said Gerald Lucia, the borough's mayor. “It's very important, my goodness, the man gave his life for Mt. Pleasant. Now that we've unfolded this story we didn't previously know about, we want to make sure it's done the right way.”
Meason said he is pleased the borough appears willing to take the steps necessary to more emphatically memorialize Pore locally.
“I applaud the efforts of Mayor Lucia bringing that up before council and setting this in motion,” he said.
Regarding the national honor bestowed recently on Pore's memory, Meason was effusive in his praise of the Gepperts' work.
“That's a really great honor, and I'm glad to see it happen,” he said.
Nation's capital silently remembers
During National Police Week earlier this month, the Gepperts, in their fourth year attending since 2010, joined many on hand to mark the dedication of Pore and the other nominated officers to the memorial, centered in the 400 block of E Street Northwest in the District of Columbia.
Dedicated on Oct. 15, 1991, the memorial features two, 304-foot-long, blue-gray marble walls containing the names of more than 20,000 federal, state and local law enforcement officers felled in action throughout U.S. history, according to the website for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
“You're standing among a group of 20,000 people, most of whom you don't know, but you share a kinship, because you carry a weapon, you bear a shield, and you carry the responsibility of protecting and serving those you do not know,” Rick Geppert said. “We're all one at that point ... and we respect our brothers and sisters who have fallen before us.”
The week's emotional tipping point came during a candlelight vigil at the site held the evening of May 13, Rocky Geppert said.
“It was very quiet, despite how many people were there. It's very respectful,” he said.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.