The sound of thunder will come to Payson Sunday. Between 400 and 1,000 motorcyclists will ride into town to honor fallen police officers, including the 154 officers killed in the line of duty in 2004 -- six of them in Arizona.
W. Steven Martin, president of the Arizona Police Toy Drive and Memorials Board and Phoenix disc jockey, said the ride is a tribute to all fallen officers, including Payson Police Chief David Wilson, who was shot and killed in 1992.
"It's to let people know that we will not forget those who have died serving and protecting us," Martin said.
The ride begins in Phoenix and passes locations where police officers have been killed in the line of duty, including Department of Public Safety Officers Robert Martin who was shot and killed during a traffic stop on the Beeline Highway in 1995.
The ride concludes in Payson around noon, where there will be a ceremony and a barbecue fund-raiser in the Payson Police Department parking lot. The public is encouraged to attend, Martin said.
Martin said the money raised goes toward the Arizona Police and Memorial Fund, which pays for local police memorials as well as transporting families of fallen officers to the National Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial in Washington D.C. to find the name of their loved one engraved on the wall.
It was nearly 13 years ago when Payson Police Chief David Wilson was shot and killed in the line of duty, shortly before his 50th birthday.
Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner was second in command and remembers the tragedy vividly.
"There was an elderly gentleman in town who (Wilson) knew and he had called for help," Gartner said. "(Wilson) knew he was a little on the crazy side. He went to his house that afternoon and when he got there, he was shot by the guy and then the elderly gentleman shot himself."
Gartner was appointed police chief following Wilson's death.
"It was a very hard time for this town," Gartner said. "(Wilson) was very involved in the community and Rotary and Kiwanis. He was assistant town manager as well. The impact was huge and the town was in mourning for several months afterward."
During the noon ceremony, Gartner will add Wilson's name to an Arizona flag that lists the state's fallen officers. Martin said the flag will be taken to the national memorial.
"I have talked to (Gartner) about building a memorial for (Wilson)," Martin said. "It would be a focus point for officers and the community to remember that someone died serving and protecting them."
"I think a memorial right here in front of our department building would be great," Gartner said. "It would be a humbling kind of thing. It would be a reminder to all of us that police work is a dangerous business and you have to stay on your toes."
Donations to the Arizona Police and Memorial Fund can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank to account #1573-7661.
Arizona Law Enforcement Officers killed in the line of duty in 2004
Dec. 19 -- George Debates, U.S. Border Patrol agent
Dec. 22 -- Darrol Yoos, Phoenix police officer
May 12 -- Don Schultz, Phoenix police officer
May 20 -- Joseph Goldsmith, Apache County sheriff's deputy
Aug. 28 -- Eric White, Phoenix police officer, and Jason Wolfe, Phoenix police officer