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April 30, 2008 - Joe Gorman
Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the death of Youngstown Police Officer Michael Hartzell, one of the most emotional stories I've covered in 16 years of journalism.
Although I was mainly involved in the trial of the man who was convicted of killing him, Martin Koliser, I did help out on the Youngstown beat then and was present at the late night news conference the day after the murder when the police announced they had captured Hartzell's killer in Florida.
Bob Bush, the police chief at the time who is now an assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor, said last week the thing helped get him through the first 48 hours was the hunt to capture Koliser. He said it gave him something to focus on while dealing with the hurt of losing a fellow officer.
When I talked to the family over the weekend, they said they had so many other things going on that the hunt for Koliser was not as significant, although they were quick to add they were glad he was caught so quick.
The Hartzells themselves could not have been nicer when I spoke to them. It was akward for me, as some of these stories sometimes are, but they were very helpful and I was thankful (not to get too personal but if there is one thing I know about, unfortunately, it is burying your own child).
They still seemed humbled by the awesome outpouring of support during the calling hours and funeral for their son. Howard Hartzell said he remembers people standing in doorways watching the funeral procession to St. Christine's Church and since his son's death, he said he has an appreciation for how dangerous police work can be and also the pain that others experience when they deal with the death of a child. He said he and his wife Mary Kay go to a lot more funerals.
A few weeks ago, I was on a ride along with a pair of police officers for a story I am working on when they were approached by a high school senior who said she 'loves the police' and peppered them with questions about their job. The girl said she wanted to be a police officer too someday and thanked the officers for their time when they had to pull away.
The officers I was with said they always try to be accomodating in situations like that. After all, they said, it is not often they come across people who say they like them and who seem genuinely interested in them and their jobs.
But for a brief moment five years ago, just about everybody in the Mahoning Valley had the same attitude as that student. Too bad that attitude can not last.
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