On April 17, 1979, Ken Koelsch was teaching at Juneau-Douglas High School when he got a call from his wife, at home with their two kids on Evergreen Avenue.
“Don’t come home,” Marian told him, asking him to make sure no school kids were allowed into the neighborhood.
Two Juneau police officers — Officer Jimmy Kennedy and Traffic Officer Richard Adair — had been shot and killed in the line of duty just outside Koelsch’s home, and it was still unclear where the shooter was.
On Wednesday, “another sunny day in Juneau,” Koelsch — who is now the mayor of Juneau— spoke during the annual National Police Memorial Day ceremony at Evergreen Cemetery, where a wreath was placed on Adair’s grave.
“This is personal,” Koelsch said. “In the midst of a sunny day, in the midst of children at play, death came to Evergreen Avenue.”
Marian had gone into the street to retrieve a beach ball, walking back up the hill as a police car passed her.
“As Marian begins to walk up the steps to our house, shots ring out,” Koelsch said. “Not one, not two, but a series of shots. The squad car rolls back down Upper Evergreen, its windshield pocked with bullet holes spaced evenly about 5 inches apart. The car hits the power company pole behind our house and stops. … Both officers had died instantly.”
Koelsch noted that Adair had held his granddaughter for the first time the day before he died; she is 38 now.
“Officer Adair symbolizes … every law enforcement officer who gets up in the morning, puts on his or her uniform and badge and goes to work to protect and defend,” he said.
“I honor your badge and your unwavering answer to the question, ‘To whom will it fall to protect and defend?’” Koelsch concluded. “I honor your answer, ‘Send me, send me.’”
Adair, 51, and Kennedy, 32, were shot and killed when they responded to a home where a mentally ill subject had barricaded himself inside. The man had already shot and wounded a neighbor; he took his own life shortly thereafter. Adair and Kennedy were the second and third officers in Juneau killed in the line of duty.
Adair had worked as a draftsman for the city of Juneau prior to joining JPD in 1969. He was a 10-year veteran at the time of his death. Kennedy served four years in the U.S. Navy after graduating from high school in Mississippi in 1964, spending part of that time in Vietnam. He came to Juneau with a band and was hired by JPD in 1977, just days before his engagement was scheduled to end. He served in the department for 18 months prior to his death.
Alaska’s Police Memorial Week honors the fallen law enforcement officers from across the state with multiple ceremonies at various locations, including two events in Juneau Wednesday and one last week that specifically honored Juneau Police Department Officer Karl Reishus.
Four Juneau Police Department officers have died in the line of duty. On Oct. 19, 1964, Inspector Donald Dull was accidentally killed by another JPD officer whose firearm malfunctioned. On April 17, 1979, Kennedy and Adair were killed when they responded to a report of shots fired. On May 4, 1992, Reishus died following a training accident.
National Police Memorial Day is recognized on May 15 every year. Memorial services in Alaska are held on different days so families of the fallen officers can attend their local service as well as the national memorial. In Juneau, the Capital City Chapter of the Alaska Peace Officer Association hosted the wreath-laying at Evergreen Cemetery at noon, and there also was a candlelight memorial ceremony at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School at 6 p.m.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 523-2246 or firstname.lastname@example.org.