FAIRFIELD — A man who was all heart was awarded the law enforcement Purple Heart on Saturday, 30 years after he was killed in the line of duty.
About 150 people gathered at the Art Koch Range & Training Facility to honor Sgt. Art Koch, a five-year veteran of the Fairfield Police Department who was shot responding to a disturbance call on Berkeley Way.
The 34-year-old father of three was finishing his last shift as a patrol officer on July 28, 1984. He lay wounded by his car for about 20 minutes before paramedics and firefighters were able to rescue him. He died a few hours later.
"Father in heaven, your word says there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for another," said Joseph Prudhomme, senior law enforcement chaplain, during the invocation.
While several years have passed, Prudhomme said Koch's sacrifice would never be forgotten. He also prayed for healing for Koch's family and friends.
Fairfield Mayor Harry Price talked about the oath first responders take to protect the public. A changing society, with people who don't recognize the sanctity of human life, makes the job even tougher today, he said.
"It's with humble respect we get to honor an officer like Art," Price said. "Those who gave their life to protect us set a high standard for us to follow."
Walt Tibbet, Fairfield's police chief, shared how the Art Koch Range & Training Facility has made a difference in police training throughout Northern California. He read statements from two retired Fairfield Police Department chiefs, Charles Huchel and Doug Milender, who recalled Koch as a "quality guy" and "a fun guy to be around."
Barbara Koch, Art Koch's widow, stepped forward with her two daughters and son to receive the purple heart. She thanked everyone for the tribute to her late husband.
"Our family is so honored and pleased Art's name has been kept alive," she said.
She also thanked all the police officers in attendance. She said their lives can be stressful and said their work is greatly appreciated.
Several of Koch's family members attended, some traveling from Los Angeles and Oregon. The youngest was Art Koch's 10-week-old grandson, whose middle name is Arthur.
Sarah Koch-Schiller was 6 when her father died. The baby boy is her son.
"It was nice to get together to remember him," Koch-Schiller said.
She said she was pleased to see officers who had served with her father as well as Judge Ramona Garrett, who tried Stanley Verketis, the man who shot her father.
Garrett called the event "extraordinarily moving." She said she was pleased to see Koch's family come out in strong numbers "so they could see how much Art's sacrifice meant to the Fairfield Police Department and the citizens of Fairfield."
"It brings back good and bad memories," said former Fairfield assistant police chief Larry Walker. "You relive part of life that's not pleasant but it's good to see that Art's family is doing well."
While Walker was on duty the day Koch died, he said there are times it seems like Koch's death happened a short time ago.