Fallen chief recalled at rededication

MANCHESTER - On the morning of Dec. 13, 1972, many area residents not living within earshot of the former Whipple's Pharmacy awoke to the shocking news that the town's police chief, Dana L Thompson, had been killed in a shoot-out the night before while investigating a report of a burglary.

About 20 gunshots were exchanged between two burglars and several police officers who were drawn to the scene. Thompson, 62, was killed at the scene. The Manchester Village Police Chief, George Hoag, was seriously injured. Edward Battick, one of the burglars, was also seriously injured in the firefight that subsequently broke out, as police officers from around the area converged on the scene.

Thompson had been on duty alone earlier that evening, before responding to the burglary alert shortly after 10 p.m. on the evening of Dec. 12. Thompson's death was the first instance of a police officer being killed in Vermont in the line of duty in 20 years, according to that week's issue of the Manchester Journal. The entire front page was taken up with an account of event, a front page editorial which noted, among other points, that this was the sort of thing that simply wasn't supposed to happen in a small town like Manchester. There was also a notice that all the stores in town would be closed for two hours on Friday, Dec. 15, out of respect for the fallen police chief.

Following a burial ceremony that Friday, Dec. 15, which drew dozens of law enforcement and state officials to Manchester for the service at the first Congregational Church, the town honored Thompson by naming the municipal recreation park after him. Last Saturday, May 18, in an event that coincided with National Police Week, the park was rededicated to him, shortly after a new $1.5 million "Park House," built to replace an aging and increasingly obsolete office facility, opened for public use.

A series of speakers during the roughly 30 minute ceremony, which started around 1 p.m., praised Chief Thompson for being a humble man who was dedicated to his job and community.

"Chief Thompson was a good guy," said Select Board Chairman Ivan Beattie in the course of his remarks. "He believed in the good in people; it's what made him a good person. I don't ever want people to forget how important this man was to this community."

A memorial stone on the pathway from the main drive into the Rec Park was also dedicated, as police and fire department officers laid a circle of roses around the inscription on the path.

But there was humorous moments as well interspersed with the more solemn ones, as both Beattie and other recalled episodes that involved the chief and he way of reining in overly rambunctious behavior.

Dan Scarlotta, a grandson of Chief Thompson's, recalled a story involving an acquaintance who decided to test the speed limits of town and thought he had gotten away with the caper only to be surprised later that evening when he arrived home to discover Thompson's cruiser parked outside his parent's home. Thompson, after apparently filled in the boy's parents on the event, stood up and made his way out the door, pausing to mention to Scarlotta's friend that "his work wad done," Scarlotta said during his remarks to the audience.

Carol Thompson, the former chief's daughter-in-law, recalled watching him walk his beat along Main Street and other parts of town, stopping to give directions or engage in gossip with other residents of town.

"He always quietly taught, encouraged and believed in people, and by his example, we learned," she said. "He enjoyed his job. He took pride that Manchester was his town."

After Carol Thompson's remarks, Police Chief Michael Hall presented a plaque with some of the medals and awards Chief Thompson earned during his service in law enforcement, to John Thompson, one of Dana Thompson's sons. That was followed by an unveiling of a memorial display of Thompson that will hang in the new Park House.

"His legacy continues today and will never be forgotten," Police Chief Hall said.


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