Runners and walkers looped through Trinity Park on Saturday morning to honor police officers, particularly those who have died in the line of duty.
More than 300 people participated in the inaugural Fort Worth Officers Down 5K, which raised money for the Fort Worth Police & Firefighters Memorial. The start and finish line was next to the memorial, at 2201 W. Seventh St. in the park.
The memorial lists the names of 56 Fort Worth police officers, 39 firefighters and three deputy marshals who have died in the line of duty.
Christina Esparza lost her son, Irving policeman Andrew Esparza, when he was in a car wreck responding to a call in 2007. His family participated Saturday to honor him.
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“It means a lot because it doesn’t go unnoticed that they sacrificed their lives,” Christina Esparza said. “Some people don’t understand they put their lives in danger every day so we can be safe.”
Her oldest son, Felix, is a Fort Worth firefighter. Her other son, Ralph, is an Irving policeman, as is her son-in-law Brian Stahl. Christina said she’s proud of her family and was glad to see so many people support them.
“All the negative stuff hurts,” she said. “I know what it’s like to be on this side.”
The Officers Down 5K Foundation began in 2011, when founder and event director TJ Burke wanted to bring communities together “to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and to support those brothers and sisters in blue who serve daily to keep our families safe.”
“It’s important that the community comes together,” Burke said. “It’s sickening that cops are being ambushed and killed.”
Twenty-three American police officers have been killed in the line of duty this year, Burke said, seven in the past 11 days.
Burke brought the event to Fort Worth with the help of Steve Thompson, a local man who “wanted to do something positive to raise awareness.”
Thompson was an officer in Claremont, Minn., when his friend Brian Klinefelter, a St. Joseph police officer, was shot and killed when he pulled over a robbery suspect in 1996. Thompson left law enforcement and now hopes to “raise awareness for how difficult this job really is.”
“They have a thankless job, and this is a small token of my appreciation,” Thompson said.
Other participants included Malcolm McGuire, a Denton police officer.
“I think it’s awesome to come out and support police, doing something on a positive note,” said Tysha McGuire, Malcolm’s wife. Their sons, Miles, 10, and Mason, 7, ran in the kids’ fun run.
Mark David Smith, 817-390-7808