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November 2004

Officer Gabriel Keithley

St. Louis (MO) Police Department

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Officer Gabriel Keithley of the St. Louis (MO) Police Department as its Officer of the Month for November 2004.

Ever since he was a young boy, Gabriel Keithley wanted to be a police officer in St. Louis Missouri. During his childhood he would sit and listen to his great grandfather and great uncle tell stories of working for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. It was from these stories that Gabriel gained a genuine respect for law enforcement and dreamed of one day living those stories himself. In October of 2001 he entered the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Academy and seven months later he achieved his dream of being a police officer assigned to the city's eighth district.

Regarded by his superiors and peers as an officer who possesses integrity of the highest caliber, Officer Keithley quickly earned a reputation as a hardworking and dedicated professional. In January of 2003, nominated by his fellow officers, Officer Keithley was awarded the Eighth District Officer of the Month Award, presented to the officer showing the greatest work ethic and dedication to duty.

It was this work ethic and dedication to duty that was rewarded in May 2003 when his supervisors recommended him for the district's Weed & Seed Unit. This highly selective unit is patterned after a United States Department of Justice initiative to help designated neighborhoods facing serious problems related to narcotic and firearm violations. As a member of this elite unit, Officer Keithley was instrumental in helping the unit make approximately 400 arrests totaling 425 felony,153 misdemeanor arrests and 577 city ordinance violations. In 2003 alone, 123 firearms were recovered and 31 vehicles and approximately $36,000 were seized under the Asset Forfeiture guidelines.

On January 30, 2004 Officer Keithley's life was changed forever. While conducting a narcotics investigation Officer Keithley and his partner Officer Nicholas Sloan approached a subject who would later be identified as the target of their investigation. A violent confrontation ensued and the suspect grabbed Officer Sloan's sidearm from its holster.

The suspect fired multiple shots at Officer Keithley, striking him repeatedly in the abdomen and left shoulder, his dominant side. The suspect then turned and fired one shot at Officer Sloan at point blank range. With Officer Sloan on the ground, Officer Keithley, struggling to breathe, reached for and tried to obtain his sidearm with his right hand. Fighting through excruciating pain and partial immobility, Officer Keithley returned fire, mortally wounding the assailant. Both officers were rushed to a nearby hospital where the medical staff was able to stabilize Officer Keithley and prepare him for surgery. Despite heroic measures by medical personnel, Officer Sloan, at only 24 years of age, gave his life in the performance of his duties. Although both officers were wearing their department issued soft body armor, all shots fired had struck either above or below the vests.

Officer Keithley continues to face an extensive and lengthy rehabilitation process. His physical wounds will heal, however, at only 26 years old, he has experienced one of the greatest tragedies an officer can face — the loss of a partner. He knows that this wound may never heal completely; but finds strength in his wife's love, his strong faith in God and his involvement with his local parish.

Captain Leman Dobbins, Commander of the Eighth District stated, "Officer Keithley's integrity is of the highest caliber. Without hesitation, he would volunteer to assist fellow officers with any task and share his professional knowledge with them. For this, he gained the respect of his peers and superiors."