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Fallen officer memorial planned for courthouse lawn

by CHANSE WATSON
Managing Editor | June 17, 2022 1:00 AM

WALLACE — The wheels are turning on a new memorial to honor Shoshone County law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.

Osburn Police Chief Darrel Braaten and Shoshone County Sheriff Mike Gunderson explain that the idea for the memorial came about in late 2021 when Roy Reel contacted them about the idea. Reel was working as a dispatcher for SCSO the last time a local LEO was killed in 1976.

Agreeing that it was a good idea, Braaten and Gunderson formed a committee of current and former law enforcement officers in January 2022 with the purpose of erecting a fallen officer memorial.

The newly formed committee then met with the Shoshone Board of County Commissioners to request that the memorial be placed in front of the courthouse in Wallace on the west side of the building near the flagpole. After receiving the go-ahead from the BOCC, it was then time to decide how it would look.

Gunderson explained that the committee agreed on a design that was presented by Wilbert Precast that depicts a large stone with the engravings of Shoshone’s two fallen officers.

The first name will be that of Wallace Police Officer John C. Farris, who was stabbed to death on Jan. 31, 1946, after catching a suspect attempting to break into a grocery store. The suspect fled, but was later arrested after being shot by other officers. The 21-year-old suspect, an escapee from the Montana State Penitentiary, was later convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

The second name inscribed will be that of Osburn Police Officer Earl Charles “Chuck” Ashton, who was shot and killed on Aug. 17, 1976, after stopping the driver of a vehicle for traveling the wrong way on Interstate 90. As he approached the window of the vehicle, the male suspect fired at Ashton with a .30-.30 rifle and struck him in the neck as he attempted to push the barrel of the gun away. The suspect was later arrested following a pursuit in Kootenai County and was sentenced to death. However, the sentence was later overturned by a Supreme Court ruling and he ended up receiving 25 years in prison.

The stone with extra blank space will be surrounded by pavers and lights that will continually shine on the memorial.

“Hopefully it never happens, but if we have to add to it, we can,” Braaten said. “There will only be two names on it and I hope it stays that way forever.”

The committee is currently in the process of ordering the $4,000 monument, which was paid for through a donation by Dave Smith GMC. The Shoshone County Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund is still accepting donations though to pay for additional features.

If the memorial is acquired in time and the weather cooperates, the committee plans to have the monument delivered and installed by the fall of 2022 or spring of 2023.

“I think we have an obligation as current and retired law enforcement officers to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for the communities that we reside in,” Braaten said.

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