State trooper honored 36 years after chase crash death
PERU, Ind. (AP) — Trooper Robert Lather II was killed on July 6, 1982, when his cruiser was struck by a car that he and a Howard County deputy were trying to stop on U.S. 31 in Miami County.
Now, 36 years later, Lather’s sacrifice has been permanently honored along that stretch of road where he died.
Signage was revealed recently dedicating a mile on U.S. 31 as the Trooper Robert Lather Memorial Mile. The stretch of road runs from mile markers 174 and 175 in Miami County, which is near Grissom Air Reserve Base.
Before the signs were unveiled, a group gathered inside the Indiana State Police Peru Post to remember and honor the fallen officer, including his then wife, Teresa, and two children, Rob Lather III and Breanne Miller.
Rob Lather III said he was just 2 years old when his dad died, but he remembers him coming home and calling his name and running into his arms. But that all changed in the blink of an eye on that night in 1982.
“Our dad didn’t come home on July 6, 1982, due to a drunk driver,” he said. ” . How heartwarming it is to know that my father, Trooper Robert Lather, will forever be remembered for his passion to serve and protect communities in Indiana. His ultimate sacrifice will never fade in our minds.”
Maj. Pat O’Connor is one of the few officers still at the Peru post who worked with Lather. But even though it’s been decades, he said his fellow trooper made a lasting impression on him.
“I said many times when I was the commander here at the district that had it not been for that tragic night, Bob would have been the district manager eventually at this post,” O’Connor said. “It wasn’t that he was treated special. It was because he was special. He was a very hard working, energetic young man.”
The new signs along U.S. 31 came after Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, submitted a resolution to lawmakers last year after learning four troopers assigned to the Peru post had been killed in the line of duty. He said they all had memorial markers or signs placed near the site of their death - except Lather.
In February, state legislators approved the resolution, which urged the Indiana Department of Transportation to put up the signage to commemorate Lather.
Friend told the Lather family “it’s unfortunate that it’s taken so long for this event to occur.”
“However, we’re accomplishing it today,” he said. “Thank you to your family for your patience and forbearance. We all salute you for your sacrifice, and honor your loved one.”
Rob Lather III said his mom, Teresa, always made sure that he and his sister knew what happened to their father. He said as a kid, they would travel to the Peru Post a couple times a year to hang out with troopers who remembered Lather.
The post is the first place Robert Lather III road in a police car, flew in a helicopter and shot a gun. Over the years, the post became a second home to him.
“We always felt like we had an extended family of state troopers here in Peru,” Robert Lather III said.
Former Kokomo Police Chief Thomas DiNardo told the crowd most people wonder what happens to a fallen officer when they die. He said he found the answer when he was involved in a high-speed chase a few years after Lather was killed.
DiNardo said he was in pursuit of armed robbers who had just held up a liquor store in Kokomo. The chase ended up on U.S. 31 during a driving rain with speeds exceeding 100 mph.
“In the midst of all of that, I remember hearing a voice whispering to me saying, ‘If you get into an accident, you’re not going to be able to do anybody any good. Slow down,’” DiNardo recalled the voice saying. “I paid attention to that voice, which sounded very familiar to me.”
He said it wasn’t until the evening after the chase that he finally realized why he recognized that voice. It was the voice of Trooper Lather.
“I can say today with absolute certainty that I know where fallen police officers go when they die in the line of duty,” DiNardo told the crowd. “They become angels that watch over us. God bless you Bob Lather.”
ISP North Zone Commander Maj. Ed Schroder said every state trooper knows the name of Robert Lather and how he died 36 years ago. But after the signage was unveiled along U.S. 31, everyone driving past will know the name of the trooper who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
“Now, it won’t just be law enforcement officers who remember Bob, but the motoring public will remember the sacrifice he made as they drive past this section of highway,” Schroder said.
Source: Kokomo Tribune
Information from: Kokomo Tribune, http://www.ktonline.com