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Phoenix Police Ask Public To Help Find Officer's Killer

Phoenix Police Ask Public To Help Find Officer's Killer

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Arizona Daily Star

October 21, 2010

Police leaders likened Drenth’s death to the 1986 slaying of Phoenix police Officer Robert Fike, who two citizens found fatally shot next to his patrol vehicle in a parking lot. The department outsourced for tips on the unidentified assailant through Silent Witness, sorting through erroneous sources before they tracked down Matthew Sterling Milburn, who was later convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Milburn bragged to nearly a dozen people that he murdered Fike.

Drenth returned about one week ago to the Phoenix Police South Mountain Precinct, where he spent most of his career as a patrol officer. He had been at the Squaw Peak Precinct most recently.

He was awarded the department’s Medal of Valor for rescuing a couple from a burning south Phoenix apartment complex in the same part of the city he asked to be reassigned to patrol.

“He did save our lives,” said Lucille Taylor, who was 59 when Drenth carried her and her husband, Julius, to safety in 2003.

“He will always be in my heart,” she said. “It’s not something you expect to hear – that the police officer who saved your live, that someone took his life.”

Lt. Heston Silbert, who came up through the ranks with Drenth, said the sergeant was known in police circles as a selfless team player who would sacrifice himself for others.

Silbert said he spoke with Drenth shortly after he learned he would be returning to South Mountain Precinct.

“He was thrilled to be back home,” Silbert said. “He went right in and hugged the administrative sergeant and thanked him for making it happen.”

Drenth’s family declined to comment.

The sergeant was married to his wife, Colleen, for 13 years. The couple married around the same time he became a police officer.

Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association President Lt. Mark Hafkey said Drenth narrowly avoided “losing his stripes” when the city considered laying off police officers last year as part of its budget crunch.

The PPSLA and other public-safety unions worked with the city on pay concessions and furloughs to avoid any devastating cuts. Drenth showed up to union meetings with his wife to learn more about the budget cuts and how his family could be impacted.

Hafkey said Drenth also donated heavily to the union’s political-action efforts.

“He was a big, friendly type of officer – the type of officer kids like to hang around,” Hafkey said. “Everyone who knew him said this is one of those guys who had a huge heart.”

Donations to aid Drenth’s widow can be made to the non-profit PPSLA Charities at any Midfirst Bank, designed to help families of public-safety officers killed or injured in the line of duty.

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