As another Memorial Day weekend begins to fade, the memories of police officers who died in the line of duty remain during a year that has turned into one of the most tragic years for law enforcement on record.
Nationally, law enforcement deaths are up 42 percent compared to last year, and of the 68 officer fatalities in 2009, 27 deaths were from gunfire, which was up 80 percent from last year according to statistics released by the Mesa Police Association and National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
A mixture of crime scenarios have led to the officer deaths, said Stacey Dillon, a spokeswoman for the Mesa Police Association and the Arizona Highway Patrol Association.
"No one really knows why," Dillon said of the increase. "It's just across the board. People are just fighting back, and the bad guys just don't want to go to jail."
Since December, three Arizona law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty: Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Chris Marano, Gilbert police Lt. Eric Shuhandler, and Phoenix police Officer Travis Murphy.
On Dec. 18, Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Chris Marano, 28, was struck and killed by another DPS officer while he was laying down stop sticks on Loop 101 in north Phoenix during a high-speed chase.
Georgia Baker, 43, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with Marano's death.
Although Baker did not kill Marano, a unique Arizona law allows prosecutors to charge a person with murder if they flee law enforcement and the pursuit of the suspect results in an officer's death.
On Jan. 28, Gilbert police Lt. Eric Shuhandler, 42, was killed during a traffic stop at the corner of Val Vista Drive and Baseline Road. Police say Christopher Redondo, 35, of Globe, shot and killed Shuhandler after the veteran officer pulled over the vehicle Redondo was a passenger in for having an obstructed license plate.
The driver of the car, Daiman Irizarry, 30, then led police on a 50-mile high-speed chase along the US 60 before stopping near Superior and exchanging gunfire with dozens of officers in pursuit.
Redondo was charged with first-degree murder, and Irizarry was charged with aggravated assault, felony flight and drive-by shooting-related offenses.
On Monday, as part of the Gilbert's Memorial Day festivities, a number of items that belonged to Shuhandler, such as his police uniform, a pair of skis and an Arizona Diamondbacks jersey, were dedicated as part of a permanent exhibit at the Gilbert Historical Museum, 10 S. Gilbert Road.
On May 26, Murphy was shot several times and killed by a convicted felon about 1:30 a.m. while responding to a hit-and-run on Fairmount Avenue.
Murphy, 29, who was married with two young children, will be laid to rest today. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. at Christ Church of the Valley, 7007 W. Happy Valley Road, Peoria, with burial following at Phoenix Memorial Park, 200 W. Beardsley Road.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made in Murphy's honor to the 100 Club of Arizona, which benefits the families of fallen officers.
A memorial fund for Murphy's children has been set up in his name at Wells Fargo Bank.
A Tip-a-Cop fundraiser also will be held at the Famous Dave's barbecue restaurant at Mesa Riverview, 1011 N. Dobson Road, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to benefit Murphy's family.
For more information about the Officer Assistance Fund, go to www.mesapolice.org or call Stacey Dillon at (480) 225-4809
"Losing three officers in about six months is chilling," said Sgt. Fabian Cota, president of the Mesa Police Association. "These losses have reminded all officers how important their training is and how fast one could lose their life."