Photo by Loretta Yerian.
In a statewide initiative to honor fallen officers, law enforcement gathered at local cemeteries to lay wreaths, observe a moment of silence and honor fallen officers Dec. 2
Around 300 officers were honored in Arizona by the Fallen Heroes Wreath Program.
Fallen Heroes Wreath Program honors police officers across the country who have died serving their communities.
Williams Police Department, Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and American Legion Honor Riders honored two officers at the Williams Cemetery, who were killed in the line of duty. A third officer, Steven Garibay, who was recognized later that day, will be honored at a later date.
“We only hope to honor these brave officers and promise to never forget the sacrifices made,” said Erin Morgan, the Arizona program coordinator for the wreath program, in an email.
Officers who were remembered included Joseph McDaniel and Victor Melick.
It’s been 70 years since Joseph A. McDaniel, 59, served as a marshal for the town of Williams. He was born in Nogalas, Arizona and served in the infantry during the First World War, after which he settled in Williams. On April 15, 1947, McDaniel was called to arrest Lee Skinner, 22, who was causing a disturbance at a local tavern. Skinner had pulled a pistol on two officers and McDaniel was called for back-up. McDaniel ended up wrestling Skinner to the ground but not before Skinner drew McDaniel’s gun and shot him four times.
Likewise, 28 years prior to McDaniel’s death, 37-year-old Victor Melick was shot during a confrontation with a horse thief. During that time, Williams was known as the toughest town on the Santa Fe Railroad. The town was thriving because of a booming logging, mining and cattle industry. Melick held many jobs including actor, electrician, mechanic and law man. He aspired to run for public office.
In 1919, a local criminal with a history of mental instability and who had served time in the Arizona State Prison, returned to town and immediately returned to his old ways. The criminal, Simplicio Torres, stole a horse from Williams’ resident Mary Means and bobbed off the horse’s mane and tail in an attempt to disguise the animal. When Means recognized the horse Torres gave the horse, back but not before she called police. Three deputies escorted Torres back to his house but along the way Torres drew a hidden .32 cal. and escaped, returning to Mean’s house. Melick attempted to arrest Torres and was shot and killed. An armed posse was formed and cornered Torres in an abandoned building in Williams. The posse filled the building with numerous rounds of ammunition and wounded Torres.
Torres was ultimately captured, tried, convicted and sent to prison in Florence, where he was later hanged. Melick’s funeral was reported to be the largest and most attended funeral at the time in Williams.