2 Salem cops who died on duty decades ago nominated for memorial

SALEM -Two Salem police officers who lost their lives while serving citizens in the early 1900s are being nominated for inclusion on The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“Obviously they gave the ultimate sacrifice, dying in the line of duty,” Chief J.T. Panezott said.

Officer Charles Miller was shot and killed by a burglary suspect shortly after arresting him at the Pennsylvania train depot on April 8, 1908. Patrolman Edward Piller died April 25, 1936 in an accident while testing out the department’s recently repaired motorcycle.

Panezott said he was contacted earlier this year by a researcher from the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund who’s also a police officer in Pennsylvania and asked if the department had any officers killed in the line of duty.

The researcher already knew about Miller, but then the chief asked about Piller and the researcher did research on both men with the printed material the department had on hand and by visiting the Salem Historical Society for assistance.

According to the website at www.nleomf.org, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund was founded in 1984 to honor and remember the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers in the United States. The memorial, which lists the names of more than 19,000 officers killed in the line of duty dating back to the first known officer killed in 1791, was dedicated on Oct. 15, 1991.

Panezott said they want to see that Miller and Piller get honored for their sacrifice. The stories of both men have become part of the records of the late Salem historian Dale Shaffer, who wrote about their deaths. Some of that background information will be submitted with the applications.

The website which explained the nomination and approval process noted that “the term “killed in the line of duty” means a law enforcement officer has died as a direct and proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty. This includes victim law enforcement officers who, while in an off-duty capacity, act in response to a law violation. It also includes victim law enforcement officers who, while in an off-duty capacity, are en route to or from a specific emergency or responding to a particular request for assistance; or the officer is, as required or authorized by law or condition of employment, driving his or her employer’s vehicle to or from work; or when the officer is, as required by law or condition of employment, driving his or her own personal vehicle at work and is killed while en route to or from work.”

Miller was the first Salem officer killed in the line of duty and had been on the job just three years. Police had been called about some burglaries at homes on South Lincoln Avenue and when a ticket agent called about a suspicious person at the train depot, they gave him a description of the alleged burglary and told him to be on the lookout.

The story by Dale Shaffer said the ticket agent spotted a man fitting the description given by police and called them. Miller arrived and found the burglar on a passenger train car and took him into custody. A witness said that after they stepped down from the train onto the platform, the prisoner “suddenly switched his hand to his hip pocket, drew his gun, turned, pressed it against Miller, and fired two shots.”

Officer Miller fell dead on the spot and is buried in Hope Cemetery, where his grave marker recognizes his death in the line of duty as a Salem police officer.

Piller, who had been an officer about six years, died at the Central Clinic of a fractured skull and concussion after being injured in the motorcycle accident several hours earlier. The mayor at the time, George Harroff, had also been on the motorcycle and was injured, but survived.

Piller was a native of Washingtonville and according to an account by Shaffer, he was putting the repaired motorcycle through its paces after it had been out of service about six months. Chief of Police Ralph Stoffer rode the department’s new motorcycle with them when Piller and Harroff decided to go for a short ride and was in the lead when he looked back and saw the bike go into the air and throw the riders off head-first.

Piller is also buried at Hope Cemetery.

Approval of the nominations may not come until early 2014, with new names added to the memorial in the spring.