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Sgt. Michael King remembered

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 9, 2008 - (Eulogy of Sgt. Michael King) - For those of you who do not know me, I am Glenn Duncan. I am a police officer with the University City Police Department and I started working here just a few months before Mike. That’s a little over 25 years ago.

We’ve worked together, often on the same crews, for over 25 years. During that time we’ve also gone hunting and target shooting together. For the last several years Mike has been my administrative sergeant.

When Susan first asked me to speak here today I was a bit nervous wondering what to say. Scared spitless may be an accurate description. I have done a lot of things during my time with the police department, but, public speaking has not been one of them. I wanted to honor her request and I hope I can do Mike justice in my few minutes up here.

There are, of course, more stories about Mike that I could possibly relay here and now, but I’m sure several of his co-workers will be telling many of them over and over today and for some time to come.

Mike and I got along well right off the bat because we were both gun nuts. When Mike and I would get to talking about guns in the police department hallway other officers would just walk around us shaking their heads knowing we were going to be there for a while. Mike was mostly interested in guns for hunting or self defense/police use, while I like pretty much anything that shoots, but Mike’s knowledge of all types of guns and ammunition always amazed me.

Mike would get into the fine details of reloading ammunition for whatever situation.  As I recall Mike preferred #8 shot for Dove Hunting but had to have #7 ½’s or #6's for late season quail. He really liked using his 28 gauge side-by-side for both. I told Mike, “It’s a shotgun. Make boom. Bird fall.”

Mike was a details kind of guy. He enjoyed the details.

Mike’s interest in firearms carried over well into police work. He was a Firearms Instructor and Department Armorer. Again with the details, Mike liked knowing exactly how things worked.

Mike was always happy to help anyone who had any problems shooting or who had questions about either guns or ammunition. Mike was conscientious about making sure officers were proficient with their firearms and in keeping them properly maintained. Not just because it was his job, but because he honestly felt it was important, and he would be letting the officer down if he did not teach them to the best of his ability. If someone had a question about guns that I couldn’t answer, I’d ask Mike and visa versa. Between the two of us it was the rare firearms question we couldn’t answer.

Occasionally Mike would get into a little too much detail and leave an officer scratching his head while Mike talked about “sears” (No, not the clothing store) or “action bars” (No, it’s not an energy snack).  Some questions would get one of Mike’s throat clearing grunts while he tried to decide if the officer was serious or just yanking his chain.

Make no mistake, Mike’s knowledge went way past firearms. I’ve had some great discussions with him about Constitutional law and other, less serious, subjects, but I think I was one of the few people that would talk to him about guns much past “Heavy noisy shooty thingy.”

Speaking of Mike’s grunts, and everyone that knew him knows what I’m talking about, some of us knuckle dragging patrol officers (guilty as charged), and some supervisors, you know who you are, would sometimes go out of our way to kid Mike and earn one as a result.

Mike, being serious about his job, would be insistent that reports were written well and properly. Again with the details. Of course this would require that he occasionally had to tell an officer to make changes to a report. Well, the aforementioned knuckle dragging patrol officer being a natural smart aleck, would tell Mike “No.” Fully intending to make the necessary changes but knowing Mike would take a ½ second to realize the officer was kidding. Meanwhile Mike would stop short, start to say something, realize the officer was kidding, grunt and walk away knowing the job would be done to his satisfaction.

Mike made it clear he wanted the University City Police Department to be the best it could be. He was diligent, dedicated and justly proud of his chosen profession.

Mike left his mark on everyone here at the University City Police Department. On many of us that mark is in the shape of a nightstick. Mike was not an instigator and he’d try talking to some folks long after I thought talking was a waste of time, but he wasn’t afraid of a fight if a fight it had to be. But woe to the officer that was in his way when Mike pulled out his nightstick. He’d set it on automatic and you’d better keep your own hands and arms out of the way.

But Mike tried to instill in everyone a sense of duty and to do the right thing.

That’s what he was trying to do on the day he died.

Last Friday. October 31st. Halloween. I was working a detail in the Loop area with Mike as my supervisor. We were there to make sure no one got out of hand celebrating and no one used the opportunity to wear a Halloween mask and snatch a purse off a table.

I was standing on the sidewalk near the Loop market with Mike at about 8:30 that night, discussing the crowd and possible problems that might come up when he commented that, with it being a Friday and Halloween we could very likely get busy later in the shift. Mike was aware that I was recently diagnosed with diabetes and that I have to eat on a fairly regular schedule. I can no longer ignore the “eat whenever or maybe never” possibilities of the job. Mike knew the details of my condition and the details of the job. Since I was on foot patrol anyway, Mike suggested that I take the chance, while things were still fairly quiet, to step into one of the Loop restaurants and grab a bite to eat while conducting a “business check.”

Mike knew I had a radio and would respond, if needed. He was always looking out to make sure that not only did the general public get the service they deserve, but that the needs of the officers working for him were also met. Mike didn’t obsess about the “in-service” or “out-of-service” details. Mike knew the details and he knew when they were important and when they were not. Mike was aware that he could make sure I was well taken care of and that the work would still get done. Those were the details that were important at that time.

Mike was doing just that, when he was killed. Getting the work done. Watching out for the general public. Parked on Leland just a few feet north of Delmar. Mike was out of the traffic congestion, watching the crowds on Delmar looking for any sign of trouble or troublemakers.

Positioned to go either east or west on Delmar on a moment’s notice to get where he was needed. He had no way of knowing the trouble was coming straight to him.

Mike will be missed. As I said, stories about Mike will be told for a long time to come. If you listen, I’m sure you will hear many more today.

The University City Police Department is forever changed. Not just because of his death, but because of his many contributions to the department and the people who work there.

Mike will be missed.

Officer Glenn Duncan, U.C.P.D., is a 25-year veteran of the University City Police Department. The above are his remarks at the funeral of Sgt. Michael King.