Friday, December 19, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

30 years ago, Art Koch died keeping the city safe

art koch memorial 7_25_14

A plaque near Fairfield City Hall honors Art Koch, a police sergeant who was shot July 28, 1984, while on duty. He died the next day. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | July 28, 2014 |

FAIRFIELD — The Games of the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles were getting underway. Actor James Mason had a heart attack and died at 75. And Fairfield lost a part of its innocence with the death of Art Koch, the first – and only – Fairfield police officer to die in the line of duty.

It was July 28, 1984.

“In some respects, it seems like it was yesterday,” said Chuck Timm, Koch’s partner.

Other times, Timm said he realizes three decades have passed.

A decade ago, Timm said he couldn’t talk about Koch without shedding a tear. Now he can smile and recall playing softball with Koch, and the phrase they used, “time to roll,” when a call came in.

“He was a hard charger,” Timm said. “He was fair. He loved his family more than he loved the job, and we (police officers) love the job a lot.”

Sarah Koch-Schiller was 6 when her father died. She was scheduled Friday to deliver her second child, a son, by caesarean section. His middle name is to be Arthur, after her father.

“My dad was a very involved, present dad,” Koch-Schiller said. “When he wasn’t working, we did fun things.”

One of her fondest memories is that of her father tossing her in the air.

“It’s still very vivid today,” she said.

A high school research project was the first time she delved into details about her father’s death. A few years later, she said she had some grief work to do surrounding her father’s death.

Koch-Schiller is a licensed marriage and family therapist who lives in the Bay Area. She’s involved with the group Concerns of Police Survivors and worked with the group’s kids camps, which serve children, ages 6-14, of members of law enforcement who died in the line of duty. This year’s camp opens Monday.

Koch (pronounced Coach) was 34 and a five-year veteran of the department. He had just been promoted to sergeant and was hours away from a vacation with his wife and three children.

The officer was responding to calls of possible shots being fired on Berkeley Way, off Dover Avenue. He pulled up in front of the suspect’s house, got out of his car and was hit by bullet to the chest and fell to the ground.

“We’re not really sure Art heard the whole transmission,” Timm said.

Different channels were being used during the dispatch. Koch may not have known what was really going on, Timm said.

Police had previous contacts with the home and one of its occupants, Stanley Verketis, a legless Vietnam veteran. When dealing with Verketis, cops had been told to park on Dover Avenue, as a precaution, Timm said.

Koch lay in the street, bleeding, by his patrol car. The bullets continued to fly.

There was no SWAT team to call in to take out Verketis and rescue Koch. It didn’t exist. About 20 minutes after the shooting, a plan was devised: Throw a water curtain at the house as a distraction. Firefighters George Honey and Bob Fradenburg volunteered.

“You have to figure out what to do with what you have,” Honey said. “We had the information we needed. We felt we could do it. We didn’t see any other choice.”

Fradenburg sat in the driver’s seat of the fire truck as Honey clung to the right side, away from the Verketis residence. The goal was to remain invisible. Fradenburg pulled up in front of the house and hit the brakes. Honey climbed up the side of the truck to the top, grabbed a house and blasted the water.

“We figured we had 30 seconds, max,” Honey said.

It worked.

A medical truck was able to pull up, a paramedic jumped out, ran to Koch and dragged him to the vehicle, put him in the back, and sped away.

“They are the biggest heroes,” Timm said of the firefighters.

Verketis came out of the house about seven hours after firing the first shot. Koch died about an hour later in the early hours of July 29, 1984.

Koch has never been forgotten, Timm said. A few years ago, the city named its new indoor pistol and rifle range after Koch. The fourth annual Fallen Officers Shooting Competition will take place there Oct. 11.

Verketis is now 66 and is housed at Salinas Valley State Prison. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or amaginnis@dailyrepublic.net. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 9 comments

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  • Rita GoldenJuly 28, 2014 - 12:05 am

    What a sad thing to have happened. God bless his family.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Shari StevensJuly 28, 2014 - 1:29 am

    I still remember officer Koch and officer Chuck Timm coming in my grandparents restaurant ' The Hut ' to eat while on they're lunch breaks. I was just a little girl way back then.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Snuggle bunnyJuly 28, 2014 - 5:13 am

    This was a well respected man!!!, as for other officers that made up the fairfield police force. Cleo Patton, officer Evans, officer white, officer Morgan, officer john Mraz and officer chuck timm, officer mark ford. These officers were the type to help you when you needed it!!! They were never out of line?? To say as what we'd have today??. Officer Koch was a good friend and I will never forget him.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • 2realJuly 28, 2014 - 5:49 am

    Hopefully mraz was a better cop than council member

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • SarahJuly 28, 2014 - 8:48 am

    God bless the thin blue line .

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • John AndersonJuly 28, 2014 - 9:05 am

    Too bad they didn't cap the perp right then and there and save the taxpayers a TON of money...

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Catherine MoyJuly 28, 2014 - 9:33 am

    This story is an important reminder of the terrible loss a community feels when a police officer is killed. Our officers truly face dangerous situations more often than we like to thing. God bless Art Koch and his family. The city will be celebrating his life closer to the anniversary in a police event that Councilman John Mraz put together. And, yes, Fairfield has a history of employing great officers. I pray for them and our firefighters - all first responders - every day.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Aj CruzJuly 28, 2014 - 1:50 pm

    That was when FFPD was a good department. When Officer like Koch and Chuck Timm that whole era of solid good men with morals did the right thing. I thank them and others like Banks, Ciminos, Mraz, Kaufman, Garcia, Jones (RIP) And anyothers I cant remember right now oh yes Osgood and Dennis Witt or White ( RIP). I am sorry to say while I know there are still some good Officers on the force at FFPD I feel many of them are below the standards of these men these Officers of yesterday.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • ElsaJuly 28, 2014 - 4:29 pm

    Just for clarification, Officer Whitt is deceased, but (retired) Officer White is alive and well as far as I know.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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