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Family Gets Helping Hand, Support : Colleagues Fix Up Home of Slain Officer

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Times Staff Writer

The Canoga Park home of slain Los Angeles Police Detective Thomas C. Williams has a new coat of paint, a newly trimmed yard and is undergoing numerous repairs, thanks to nearly two dozen officers who worked with Williams.

Officers at the North Hollywood Division, where Tom Williams was a detective, can’t erase the pain for Norma Williams and her children, Ryan, 7, and Susie, 17. But they are doing what they can.

The officers began volunteering Friday to perform household chores at the Williams’ one-story home.

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“It’s like having Tom around,” Norma Williams said as she sat in her living room, occasionally dabbing away tears. “It’s making me feel good that they’re doing something for Tom out of love. And it’s their way of grieving, too.”

Williams was shot by someone in a passing car Oct. 31 as he picked up Ryan from Faith Baptist Church School in Canoga Park. Williams’ last words were to warn his son to duck. The boy did and was not injured.

Police have arrested four men in connection with the slaying, including Daniel Steven Jenkins, 30, at whose robbery trial Williams had testified hours before the shooting.

Since the shooting, many police officers, from Chief Daryl F. Gates down, have offered assistance and support, Norma Williams said.

She said she recently received a letter from the president of First Interstate Bancard Co. in Simi Valley, where she has worked for four years, telling her she may remain off work at full salary as long as necessary.

She also said she will receive her husband’s police pension and proceeds from an insurance policy he had purchased. She declined to discuss amounts, however.

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Lt. Ed Gagnon of the Police Department’s medical liaison section said the widow of a police officer slain in the line of duty receives a one-time payment of $50,000 from the federal government. Norma Williams will also get a pension of half of her late husband’s $43,000-a-year salary. Her two children will share an additional allocation of 40% of her pension, police spokesmen said.

Letters With Money

Norma Williams said she has also received letters with money enclosed from people as far away as Ojai and Redondo Beach, and was offered free legal services from the San Fernando Bar Assn. The association has also arranged to provide free dental services for the children, Gagnon said.

Other help came from the Police Memorial Foundation, a private, community-funded group, which paid for Williams’ funeral, burial, cemetery plot and headstone, Gagnon said. That group is also paying for psychological counseling at UCLA for the Williams children.

Norma Williams said she has also received support from the Family Support Group, an organization of police widows who banded together to help themselves and others who undergo similar tragedies.

“If it had not been for this group of women, I would not have had my sanity,” Norma Williams said. “They were here within minutes after the shooting. They stayed with me until the wee hours of the morning, just holding me and being a great deal of comfort.”

She said that she worried about sending Ryan back to Faith Baptist School, where he witnessed the death of his father.

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“But now I wouldn’t pull him out for anything,” she said. “They are so full of love. That first day, they had prepared all the children. They allowed the children to talk about it the whole day, so that, by the time I appeared, the kids had more sense than some adults I’ve run into.”

Susie Williams, a senior at Canoga Park High School, returned to school last week for the first time since the shooting. “Two hours later, she called home crying,” Norma Williams said. “Someone had asked her a question: ‘How had it happened or how was she doing?’--a caring question, but she couldn’t handle it. She came home.”

Susie Williams returned to school the next day. On Friday night, she performed with the school drill team at homecoming ceremonies, then attended a school dance.

Norma Williams said her husband of 17 years was a family man who shared household responsibilities, helping get the children off to school and making Ryan’s lunch every day. “He would always call me throughout the day to check how I was doing and discuss things,” she said.

She said her husband was proud to be a policeman and retained his humanity. Once, she said, he came home from work enraged after he found a 4-year-old boy on the street on a tricycle at 3 a.m. He took the boy home and found his mother drunk and the refrigerator empty, she said.

“He came home and cried,” she said. “It just touched him so much.”

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