He shall never be forgotten

(left) John Palowski, 2, with his mother Kimberly Palowski, leave a rose at the plaque dedicated to Officer Palowski, who was whot 2 years ago, Wednesday, May 11, 2011, Philadelphia, Pa. Officer Palowski was John’s father and Kimberly’s husband. (Maria Pouchnikova)

On a day when nobody could’ve blamed Kim Pawlowski for choosing not to step up to the lectern to address a crowd of hundreds, she almost chose not to do it.

But with the Philadelphia Police and Fire Pipes and Drums band belting out its rendition of amazing grace and the throng of her late husband’s colleagues, friends and family about to disperse, Kim Pawlowski could remain silent no longer.

She had to express her gratitude to those who supported Officer John Pawlowski in life and have continued to support the slain officer’s family in the wake of his heroic death.

“I appreciate everybody’s support, and I want to thank some people,” Kim Pawlowski said at the conclusion of a May 11 dedication ceremony for a bronze plaque memorializing her husband.

The plaque is embedded in the sidewalk at Broad Street and Olney Avenue, where a would-be mugger shot the officer to death on February 13, 2009.

Kim Pawlowski thanked attorney Jimmy Binns, who founded the Philadelphia Hero Cop program, which has placed 94 memorial plaques around the city since 1991.

She also thanked the relatives of other slain police officers, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 president John McNesby and members of the Bullets Motorcycle Club, who were among her husband’s most beloved friends.

Kim Pawlowski then offered her greatest gratitude to her son John III, who was born four months after his father’s death and will turn 2 years old in June.

“He doesn’t know it yet, but someday I’ll let him know that he’s been my rock for the last two years,” the officer’s widow said amid the somber silence of the usually bustling intersection.

Officer John Pawlowski, 25, a Port Richmond resident and Parkwood native, was a six-year veteran of the police department. On the day of his death, he was on patrol in the 35th district when he responded to a report of a dispute in the street outside of SEPTA’s Olney Transportation Center.

An unlicensed taxi driver had called 911 claiming that another man had tried to rob him. The suspect and victim were both at the scene when Pawlowski and his partner arrived in a patrol car.

After the cab driver pointed out the mugger, the officers ordered the suspect to remove his hands from his jacket pockets, but he did not comply. Instead, he fired a handgun through his clothing. One shot struck Pawlowski in his body armor vest. Another wounded the officer in the side, just below the armpit, where the vest offered no protection.

Pawlowski died a short time later at Albert Einstein Medical Center. Other police shot the suspect, Rasheed Scrugs, who recovered from his wounds, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

“These things make absolutely no sense,” Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said at the plaque dedication. “To have that individual cut down in the prime of his life is something that touches everyone in the city.”

“He didn’t know what was going to happen [when he went to work] that day, but he knew he was going to continue being a public servant to the city,” Mayor Michael Nutter added.

Pawlowski was the 254th Philadelphia police officer killed in the line of duty, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page Web site, and the seventh in a 33-month span. No Philadelphia police have been slain while on duty since Pawlowski’s death.

“The Philadelphia Police Department suffered a significant number of true tragedies over a very short period of time,” Nutter said. “It’s a constant reminder of the challenges of the profession.”

District Attorney Seth Williams noted that the plaque’s location at a major hub of the city’s transportation system and in close proximity to two public high schools, along with La Salle University, will allow people from all walks of life to view it and pay respect to Pawlowski.

“I think it’s only fitting that this plaque be dedicated here so young and old can come [to see it],” Williams said.

“It’s fitting that now his legacy is woven into the fabric of the city as a true American hero,” Binns said.

Pawlowski came from a family of police officers. His father John Sr. is a retired lieutenant, and his brother Robert continues to serve on the force.

During last week’s ceremony, which was sponsored primarily by the Bullets Motorcycle Club, Ramsey installed John III as the department’s newest “junior police officer” by pinning a small badge onto his shirt.

Deacon Gerald Whartenby of St. Anselm Parish in Parkwood, who performed the marriage of John Jr. and Kim, urged family and friends to celebrate the slain officer’s life.

“The beauty of this day will be the memories that will continue to last forever from this day forward,” Whartenby said. “It was a blessing from God that the Pawlowskis came into my life and it will always continue to be.”

Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or bkenny@bsmphilly.com