Today is National Peace Officer Memorial Day, and the family of a Pella officer killed on duty 39 years ago continues to remember his legacy. John E. Van Haaften was shot and killed in April of 1980 while conducting an undercover drug bust in Knoxville. His daughter Tricia Van Zee says her father loved the community and to serve and protect the public, as the many officers around the country do every day, as well as those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“My dad loved being a police officer,” she says. “It’s not anything you go into mildly, and so everyone in that role, it’s not their intent to be the bad guy, their intent is to protect us from the bad guy.”
Sharyl Hanthorn was married to John when he was killed, and she honors him annually with a scholarship given to graduating high school seniors. She hopes his legacy lives on through those students. Marion County Deputy Harold Gates, who also served on the Pella Police Department, died while on duty when he was shot and killed in Pella on October 25, 1967.
Prairie City Officer Donald Hewitt was killed in an automobile accident during a high-speed pursuit at 11:45 pm on December 3rd, 1977. He was attempting to position his vehicle in front of the suspect’s car in order to slow it down. While maneuvering his vehicle was struck broadside and he and a passenger were killed instantly.