Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Two Heroes: Connected in Death, Remembered in Life
New York City Police Detective Russel Timoshenko and Pennsylvania State Trooper Joshua Miller never knew each other in life. Over the past two years, however, the two law enforcement heroes have become inexorably connected through their separate line-of-duty deaths.
And now, thanks to the generosity of Detective Timoshenko’s NYPD colleagues and supporters, when the National Law Enforcement Museum opens in Washington, DC, in 2013, the service and sacrifice of both Detective Timoshenko and Trooper Miller will be honored side-by-side on the Museum’s “Thin Blue Line.”
This story of tragedy and, ultimately, hope began July 9, 2007. Then-Officers Timoshenko and Herman Yan were on patrol in Brooklyn’s 71st Precinct when they stopped a suspicious vehicle that was displaying license plates registered to another car. As the officers approached the vehicle, which turned out to be stolen, the occupants opened fire.
Officer Timoshenko was struck twice in the face from a .45 caliber handgun. Officer Yan was hit in the arm and chest by a 9mm handgun, but his protective vest saved his life. After fighting valiantly for five days, Russel Timoshenko succumbed to his injuries on July 14, 2007. Later than month, he and Officer Yan were both promoted to Detective and awarded the Medal of Honor, Timoshenko’s recognition coming posthumously. Detective Timoshenko’s name is engraved on Panel 16-West, Line 26 of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC.
Two days after the shooting, a task force consisting of NYPD detectives, along with members of the Pennsylvania State Police, U.S. Marshals Service and other agencies, arrested two of the suspects on I-80 in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. One of the officers instrumental in making the arrest that day: Trooper Joshua Miller, a Marine who had joined the Pennsylvania State Police four years earlier.
Fast forward almost two years, to June 7, 2009. Trooper Miller and his partner were attempting to apprehend a kidnapping suspect—a man who had taken a 9-year-old boy at gunpoint from his mother and led police on a 40-mile pursuit. As the troopers approached the vehicle after it had been stopped, the suspect opened fire, striking Trooper Miller in the neck. A law enforcement hero who helped arrest two cop killers from New York had, himself, been cut down.
To honor Detective Timoshenko, NYPD officers Simone Oliva, Nick Gentile and others organized the Fraternal Order of Police, Police Detective Russel Timoshenko Memorial Lodge #714 on Staten Island. That’s where Officers Gentile and Timoshenko had grown up as childhood friends, playing ball, learning to ride motorcycles and joining the NYPD together.
Upon receiving formal approval for the new lodge in December 2008, members immediately set out to organize a motorcycle run in Detective Timoshenko’s honor the next July. Organizers hoped to raise enough money to put Detective Timoshenko’s name on the Museum’s “Thin Blue Line,” which recognizes donors of $1,000 or more. Officer Oliva, who serves as Lodge #714 president, expected maybe 100 motorcycles for this inaugural run. They got 387 instead.
View a New York 1 report on the Russel Timoshenko motorcycle run
With the additional money they had raised, the lodge decided to reach out to troopers in Pennsylvania about making a “Thin Blue Line” donation in Trooper Miller’s name as well. “I think we have a special connection with Pennsylvania,” said Officer Oliva. “Without these guys’ dedication and support, we wouldn’t have guys behind bars right now paying the price for Russel’s murder.” Troopers in Pennsylvania applauded the idea.
Next, Lodge #714 members decided that, rather than just mailing in their donation to the Museum, they would deliver it in person—on their motorcycles, of course.
Sunday, August 9, happened to be Motorcycle Day at Washington Nationals Park in DC, with a special ticket package benefitting the NLEOMF. So Officers Oliva and Gentile, along with Stacey Perlongo (special events coordinator for the lodge) and other supporters rode their motorcycles from Staten Island to southwest DC to enjoy an afternoon of fellowship and baseball—and present their donations directly to John Shanks, NLEOMF Director of Law Enforcement Relations. “Seeing as Russel liked his motorcycle so much, whatever we can do on our bikes, we do that,” explained Officer Oliva.
Lodge #714 continues to work with Detective Timoshenko’s parents on ways to honor the memory of their son. Members recently bought a brick engraved with his name outside the headquarters of the New York State FOP in Hicksville, and they are working to erect a bust of their fallen colleague at a Staten Island soccer field recently named in his honor.
“There’s nobody I’ve met like that,” Officer Gentile told a local television station on the day of the motorcycle run in July. “He was such a happy, funny guy. Anything he did he brought life to. That’s what this is all about.”