A HOQUIAM HERO
He did not know it at the time, but the car Hoquiam Officer Donald Burke was chasing on April 16, 1980 at 5:20 PM was carrying career criminals Robert DeAngelis and Rodney Hagedorn. The two men had robbed a bank in Kirkland six days earlier and just the day before, had kidnapped a man and robbed a store in Port Orchard.
None of this was known by Officer Burke as he prepared to make a “routine traffic stop” nor did he know the tragedy that was about to unfold.
With Officer Burke in pursuit of their beat-up station wagon and DeAngelis driving, the car ran off the road at Myrtle and Industrial. Rodney Hagedorn jumped from the car, ran back to Officer Burke’s patrol car and thrust a gun into the open window of the patrol car to shoot him.
Officer Burke grabbed the gun and a life and death struggle ensued. Officer Burke lost his grip on the gun and without remorse, Hagedorn discharged the weapon, mortally wounding the patrolman.
Officer Burke staggered from his patrol car and returned fire at Hagedorn. DeAngelis shot at Burke as Hagedorn got back in the car and they sped away. Burke continued firing at the fleeing car until he was out of ammunition and collapsed to the ground behind his patrol car where he died. He was 37 years old….
Aberdeen officers soon located the suspect vehicle on Park Street and a pursuit ensued out to the area of Bear Gulch where the station wagon spun out and landed in the ditch. Hagedorn was killed at the scene and DeAngelis was arrested; he later died of cancer in the Walla Walla Penitentiary.
Officer Donald M. Burke is the only Hoquiam Police officer killed in the line of duty. His wife and four daughters still grieve his loss, as do all those who knew him.
Officer Burke was laid to rest by his fellow officers and a stunned community on April 22, 1980 at Sunset Memorial Park in Hoquiam. He was posthumously awarded the American Police Hall of Fame Medal of Honor on May 6, 1980 as well as the Washington State Law Enforcement Medal of Honor on May 16, 1997.
Officer Burke was added to the rolls of those brave officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty at the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial in Olympia and the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C….[Officer Donald Burke Memorial Scholarship Fund]