By Brian L. Willison, Chair
Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial, Inc.
The 15th Annual Wisconsin Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony will honor two Wisconsin law enforcement heroes on Friday, May 20, 2005. The ceremony, which will begin at noon and is held at the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial on the State Capitol grounds, will remember and honor Special Agent Jay P. Balchunas of the Wisconsin Dept. of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation, and Portage County Sheriff Joseph Baker.
On October 29, 2004, Special Agent Balchunas was shot by two suspects who identified him as a law enforcement officer during a street robbery. He lost his valiant fight for survival and died a week later on November 5, 2004. He was the first DCI agent to be killed in the line of duty since the agency’s inception.
Portage County Sheriff Joseph Baker was shot in the line of duty on October 11, 1875, while serving eviction papers. Even after being wounded, he stayed on the scene through the ensuing gun battle and negotiations with the suspects. He was moved to a nearby home where he died the next day. Joseph Baker’s sacrifice was forgotten for nearly 130 years until recently rediscovered during research of another historical death. Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial, Inc. (WLEM) thanks Portage County Sheriff John Charewicz for his diligent work in confirming Sheriff Baker’s death.
With the addition of the names of Agent Balchunas and Sheriff Baker, the Memorial will contain the names of 238 Wisconsin law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. A complete list and short summary of each officer’s death can be found on the WLEM web site at www.wlem.com. We at WLEM are dedicated to ensuring that all Wisconsin law enforcement heroes who are killed in the line of duty are remembered and honored, and we are currently working on confirming two other historical deaths. Anyone with information about an officer’s death that is not currently listed on the Memorial is encouraged to contact WLEM.
Please plan on joining the Balchunas family, other survivors, law enforcement officers, and friends at the Annual Ceremony on Friday, May 20, 2005. The event will begin with a gathering of squads at Olin Park, followed by a squad procession to the Capitol Square. The ceremony will be held at the Memorial on the corner of Pinckney and Mifflin Streets and will begin at noon. Attendees are invited to a lunch at the Wisconsin Air Guard Armory. Please visit the WLEM web site for details and maps.