A dinner Dec. 11 will raise funds to build Hawaii’s first memorial to law enforcement officers who gave their lives in the line of duty

Steve Murray
Wednesday - December 01, 2010
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HPD solo bikes seem to stand at attention during a memorial service for fallen officers

It’s the phone call every family in law enforcement fears. An officer is coming to get you. No questions are answered. No information is given. Someone will arrive shortly and please stay home.

Renee Gaspar knows all too well how difficult these calls are. She got hers March 4, 2003, after her husband Glen, a 12-year veteran of the Honolulu Police Department, was shot to death while trying to arrest a suspect at the Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlor in Kapolei. She kept asking questions: Is Glen OK, did something happen to him, who is going to pick up the kids? She didn’t get a response. She didn’t need one. The dedicated officer Gaspar described as “an amazing, amazing, amazing man,” was dead at the age of 40, leaving behind two young daughters, who to this day still struggle at times with the loss of their father.

“It was devastating,” says Gaspar. “Anyone who knew Glen knew he was the most hands-on father. He coached every sport they played, and they played sports all year round. To lose him was debilitating and devastating, and some of that never goes away. They are 19 and 21, and we still deal with it during milestones and memories and holidays and that sort of thing.”

Tiffany Johnson knows that feeling. She was 7 and remembers being in an office building with family when the call came. The panicked voices signaled something was seriously wrong.

“I just remember running up the stairs to my mom, saying, ‘There is something wrong with my daddy, there is something wrong with my daddy,’ and I remember not wanting to go to sleep, not wanting to go school,” she says. “I wasn’t allowed to watch the news.”

Still, she held faith her father would be OK. And why shouldn’t he be? He wasn’t just her dad, he was her hero. Somehow he would find a way. Make a fire. Build a tent from wood and branches. Something. Anything. After all, Superman is invincible.

Tiffany Johnson and her mother Joan Gribbin-Aiu

Johnson and Gaspar are not alone. Nationally, more than 17,500 law enforcement officers have lost their lives in the line of duty, and each one’s name is enshrined in the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. But for the 60 Hawaii-based officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice, there is no place at home for families to gather, no place for these men and women to be honored, no place for history to record their passing - at least not yet.

On Dec. 11 at the Sheraton Waikiki Grand Ballroom, the Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation is holding a fundraiser to right that historic wrong. The $125-a-plate event features cocktails, dinner, entertainment by Jake Shimabukuro and A Touch of Gold, and a vigil for the fallen officers and their families that Joan Gribbin-Aiu, the foundation’s executive director and president, says will be memorable.

“It’s going to be intense,” says the group’s founder. “I explained to my board, ‘I don’t care what else anyone remembers, I want them to leave remembering the faces of the family members during the vigil when they are asked to stand.’”

A family member of each fallen officer has been invited to the ceremony and will be announced and escorted down the red carpet to their table by a U.S. Marine just weeks removed from duty in Afghanistan. The Marines come courtesy of Johnson’s husband Matthew, a lance corporal in the Marines who left for Afghanistan a month after they were married earlier this year.

Gribbin-Aiu has a personal reason for heading up the effort. Her husband, Thomas K. Aiu, is a retired DEA agent, and her daughter’s father, HPD SWAT officer Bryant Bayne, was killed July 21, 1995, while on a search-and-rescue mission at Sacred Falls. His partner, Officer Tate Kahakai, also perished when the cable to the rescue basket they were riding in broke after the helicopter crashed into the mountain. Honolulu Fire Department firefighter and pilot Peter Crown, who was flying the helicopter, also died in the crash.

Crashes have taken their toll on more than a few fam-

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