Liberty Lake police honor fallen officers with special tribute patrol car
The Liberty Lake Police Department has added a new car to its fleet, but don’t look for it on patrol. It’s a specially designed tribute car covered with the names of police officers in Washington and North Idaho who have died in the line of duty or by suicide since 1980.
The tribute car program is being run by John Bujosa, a volunteer police ambassador for the department who helps with public relations and represents the department at public events.
Liberty Lake police Chief Brian Asmus said he and Officer Mike Bogenreif saw a tribute car in Arizona a couple of years ago and thought it was a great idea. Bogenreif pushed for the idea, and it was handed to Bujosa to get up and running.
“The chief knew I had an interest in doing a tribute car,” Bujosa said.
Asmus told Bujosa he needed to get a car donated, and there was no money in the budget for the project.
“We didn’t have a spare car just laying around,” Asmus said.
Bujosa said he started knocking on doors and asking for contributions.
“I never had anybody say no,” he said. “This car was done with zero budget.”
I-Guard International donated the car, an old Ford Police Interceptor that had been most recently used as a security car. Vendors donated lights and other emergency equipment to outfit the car.
The names of the fallen officers are painted on the hood along with the name of the department where they worked and the date they died. Quite a few of the names will be familiar, including Liberty Lake Sgt. Clint Gibson, who died by suicide on April 25, 2014, and Coeur d’Alene Sgt. Greg Moore, who died in the line of duty on May 15, 2015.
The hood is not yet full. “We’ve got room for at least 15 more,” he said. “Hopefully, we don’t have to do that.”
Both Asmus and Bujosa said they thought it was important to include officers who died by suicide, whose names do not appear on law enforcement memorials. “Those that have taken their own lives are not recognized in any official way,” Asmus said. “This was something we were passionate about.”
Bujosa said most of the suicides listed could be traced to job-related PTSD.
“Their service to the community was just as important as those who died in the line of duty,” he said. “They don’t get remembered anywhere else. We thought memorializing them was important.”
The car has a computer installed inside that includes a picture of every officer as well as pictures of fallen K-9 officers. Bujosa said the goal is to upload a picture of every fallen officer in the state going back for the last century.
“We’re trying to make it as respectful as possible,” Bujosa said.
The car was unveiled recently in Liberty Lake and Asmus said he has been getting a lot of positive comments from community members and the families of the fallen officers. “It’s been amazing,” he said.
Bujosa said he estimates it took about $15,000 to put the car together. The names of the businesses sponsoring the project are written on the top of the trunk, right above the words “We honor their service” written on the back bumper.
The department has committed to paying for the car’s fuel and other expenses, and “many of those sponsors say they’ll help maintain the vehicle,” Bujosa said.
The car will not be going on patrol but will visit events around the region. “It’s going to be used mostly for shows and parades,” Bujosa said. “It’s scheduled for an event just about every weekend from now to Sept. 14.”
The car can be seen locally in the 81st annual Spokane Lilac Festival Armed Forces Torchlight Parade on May 18. Asmus said he’s heard from departments across the state with officers named on the car who want to see it.
“We’ll do what we can,” he said. “We’ll try and meet as many requests as possible.”
Bujosa said he’s determined to let as many people as possible see the car, including the families of the fallen officers listed on the hood.
“I’m trying to get it out there,” he said. “My goal this year is to visit as many families as request it.”