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Police Department Honors Fallen Officers

First published in the Nov. 26 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

As a somber reminder of the burden of the badge, the Burbank Police Department mourned fallen officers in a wreath-laying ceremony outside department headquarters on Nov. 15.
That day marks the anniversary of officer Matthew Pavelka’s passing. Pavelka was killed in the line of duty on Nov. 15, 2003, nearly a year after becoming an officer for the city of Burbank.
It is a Burbank Police Officers’ Association tradition to place two wreaths at The Guardians statue in honor of officers who have fallen in the line of duty. The Burbank Police Department Honor Guard led the ceremony, placing the wreaths at the base of the monument.
“The BPD had not lost an officer in the line of duty by gunfire for more than 83 years. On the evening of Nov. 15, 2003, officer Gregory Campbell stopped two men who were driving without license plates. The area where the stop was made was well known for drug trafficking and other criminal activity, so Campbell wisely called for backup,” said BPD Sgt. Brent Fekety in a statement to the Leader.
The first officer to respond was 26-year-old Pavelka, who had been in the field as a police officer for just 10 months. When Campbell and Pavelka approached the suspects’ vehicle and ordered the two men to exit, the suspects fired shots. Both Campbell and Pavelka were wounded several times, but in the ensuing exchange of gunfire, the officers mortally wounded one of the gunmen. The other suspect escaped on foot.
Both of the wounded officers were transported to a hospital, where Pavelka succumbed to his injuries and Campbell was treated and remained in critical but stable condition.
On Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27, 2003, the suspect who fled was taken into custody.
The anniversary of the passing of BPD Deputy City Marshal Luther Colson is Nov. 16, 1914. Colson was appointed as a city marshal for Burbank on Feb. 21, 1914.
Colson was on duty Nov. 16, 1914, at about 7 p.m., when he was walking the tracks in the area of Lake Street and Victory Boulevard when a few suspects started shooting at him from the brush. One bullet struck him in the stomach. Colson returned fire from his own weapon, and after several shots, the suspects fled into the darkness.
Colson started to return to town but collapsed, and some citizens transported him to Burbank Hospital for treatment.
The Marshal of Tropico — a small community located at Los Feliz and San Fernando Boulevard, now part of Glendale — along with 25 deputies, immediately started a manhunt. On Nov. 18, 1914, three suspects were apprehended. One suspect had a weapon on him which was the same caliber that was used in wounding Colson. After a lengthy interrogation, the suspects confessed to the shooting.
Hundreds attended the wreath-laying ceremony. Most of the Burbank Police force was in attendance. They spoke in honor of Colson and Pavelka and sat in a moment of silence.
“We will always honor our heroes for their service and the ultimate sacrifice they made to secure our safety,” Fekety said.

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