Wauwatosa Police Officer Jennifer Lynn Sebena
Photo credit: Courtesy Photo
The national memorial that is delaying a decision to add a Wauwatosa police officer's name to its walls until next year has honored officers in the past who were killed under almost identical circumstances.
Wisconsin Professional Police Association cited the example of Louisville, Ky., officer Gwen Downs, who was killed in 1977, on Friday as it renewed calls for Wauwatosa officer Jennifer Sebena's name to be added to the memorial wall this year.
Downs and her partner responded to a call at a parking lot and her estranged husband approached her, started an argument and shot the officer twice before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
The memorial fund, headed by president and CEO Craig Floyd, decided Thursday that it would wait until 2014 to make a final decision on whether to add Sebena to its walls that honor officers killed in the line of duty.
"Given what we now know, the memorial board still has time to do the right thing and honor her this year. Frankly, if this isn't enough, then I honestly don't know what will be," Wisconsin Professional Police Association Executive Director Jim Palmer said Friday.
Earlier this week, news spread that the fund had tentatively chosen not to include Sebena, apparently because she was killed in an act of domestic violence.
Sebena was working an overnight shift when she did not respond to a call from dispatch at 4:24 a.m. on Christmas Eve. Four minutes later, another officer located her squad car and found her body outside the back door of the fire station.
Her husband, Benjamin Sebena, 30, has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to first-degree intentional homicide.
The Wisconsin Association of Women Police joined the Wisconsin Professional Police Association on Friday in calling for Sebena to be included in the 2013 ceremony.
"Recognition of Officer Sebena's sacrifice is not only deserved by her, but by her family, friends, co-workers and every officer nationwide who puts his or her life on the line, knowing that violence came come from anywhere -- even a family member," the association's board wrote.
Gov. Scott Walker said Friday that he had spoken to the president and CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in support of adding Sebena to the memorial in Washington, D.C.
Walker wrote a letter, as did other public officials, on behalf of Sebena and her family. But he said he followed up late Thursday with a phone call to Floyd.
"For me this is very personal," he told reporters at the Super Steel Products Corp., plant on Milwaukee's northwest side, where he met with workers. "One of the specific things I pointed out to him was that on the morning of the 24th . . . that area was essentially in lockdown. People didn't know what had happened. All they knew was that an officer was on duty, had gotten out of a squad car, was ambushed and killed."
Added Walker: "Regardless of who the perpetrator was, she was on duty protecting the citizens of Wauwatosa, me included, my family included. Along with a lot of family and friends."
The governor said he learned later that Sebena, on patrol that night, had driven by his own home.
Walker said he appreciated that the organization would give the incident a second consideration.
"I'm hopeful in the future they will give reconsideration," he said.
In a written statement, the memorial fund's CEO said Thursday that board members are "very sensitive to the unique circumstances of this case and believe that further research and review is warranted."
"A final decision will be made on Officer Sebena's case no later than early 2014. We regret the delay, but want to make sure our board of directors makes a fully informed and correct decision," Floyd said.
Palmer maintained Friday that there should be no delay and that the fund's past decisions provide a precedent for Sebena.
He provided several examples, including Downs and Yvonne D. Pettit, in the letter than he sent to the White House asking for support. Pettit, a sheriff's deputy in Washington Parish, La., was killed in 2006 when she and her partner were ambushed by Pettit's estranged husband while on duty.
Copyright 2013 - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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