Charles Randy Champe and Gary A. Howe, veteran Los Angeles police officers who fought crime from the cockpit of a helicopter, were eulogized June 20 as heroes for keeping their aircraft from striking a day-care center and an elementary school as it plunged from the sky.
The two police officers were killed June 13, 1991, in a helicopter crash apparently caused when the helicopter’s engine failed on a routine patrol. More than 2,000 law enforcement officers from throughout Southern California converged on the Hollywood Hills to honor them.
“To our fellow officers who have departed, we can never say thank you, but we can remember. And we will,” said Deputy Chief Mark A. Krocker.
More than 30 helicopters saluted the fallen officers with a 10-minute flyover as part of the smoggy morning ceremony at Forest Lawn Memorial Park cemetery. The memorial service opened with a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace” and ended 90 minutes later with the somber blasts of “Taps” from a gleaming trumpet.
Champe, 46, and Howe, 41, were remembered as brave and dedicated members of the department’s Air Support Division. Krocker – and later Police Chief Daryl F Gates – expressed concern that the officers’ “ultimate sacrifice” had gone unappreciated because of widespread civic criticism of the Police Department.
In remarks to reporters after the service, a solemn Gates agreed. “I am not sure the people really recognize the contributions that officers like these two make to the peace, safety, and good order of this city,” said Gates. “It makes all of these other issues pale into total insignificance.”
Police and military honor guards paid tribute to the two officers with a 21-gun salute, followed by the ceremonial folding of the American flags that had been draped over the caskets. Gates and Capt. Robert Woods, commanding officer of the Air Support Division, presented the flags to Sue Champe, and Lynette Howe the widows.
Champe, a 17-year veteran and the helicopter’s observer, was remembered by two Marines who had served with him in Vietnam. Bill Peters described his decorated war buddy as a quiet man who over the years “opened like a flower.”
Howe, a 20-year police veteran and pilot of the helicopter, was honored as a dedicated police officer and a devoted father and husband. In addition to his wife, Howe leaves three children, Stefani, 14, Robert, 10, and Brent, 8.
In memory of the two officers, Police Department officials said the unit designation “Air 12,” which had been assigned to Champe and Howe, will no longer be used by the department.
“We will never again hear from Air 12,” Officer Frank Provenzano, a former partner of Champe, told mourners. “Air 12, clear,” said Officer Bill Stough.