In January 1982, Salt Lake City Police Officer Ronald Heaps was shot and killed during a routine investigation. Now, 33 years later, Heap’s loved ones and residents of the Central City Neighborhood where he died are getting a chance to honor him in a big way.
The Ron Heaps Memorial Park has been in the works for a long time, but the memories of the 32-year-old fallen officer are still fresh in the minds of those who knew him. Art Healey is a retired Lieutenant with the Salt Lake City Police Department. He responded to the scene where Heaps was killed and has since worked tirelessly to properly memorialize his friend and training officer.
“It was done,” Healey says. “It was in the past. Few people wanted to remember. But it was a critical thing for this community that somebody laid down their life, not knowing that they were going into danger but that it was thrust upon them and it destroyed the lives of all three officers who were there.”
The park is a place to rest and reflect. It’s also home to a community garden that’s tended to by area elementary students. It’s located at 256 east Herbert Avenue, a few blocks from where Heaps was shot and killed. The suspect who killed Heaps was later identified as a fugitive, wanted in the death of a California Highway Patrol officer.
Shane Heaps, Ron’s oldest son was 12 years old when his father died. Moments like these are special for him, surrounded by people like Healey who knew his father well.
“I get to hear the stories from when my father was still alive and how good of friends they were and to bring my dad back to life,” Heaps says.
Tears stream down his face, as Heaps considers for a moment what could have been.
“I really wish I would have been able to meet my dad as an adult,” Heaps says.
The park was made possible by members of the Liberty Wells Community Council, The Salt Lake City Police Association and members of the Salt Lake City Council among others.