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Burbank Officer Matthew Pavelka honored with special remembrance on 15th anniversary of his death

Burbank Officer Matthew Pavelka honored with special remembrance on 15th anniversary of his death
Two wreaths were laid at the base of the Guardians statue in front of the Burbank police and fire departments' headquarters on Wednesday in honor of Officer Matthew Pavelka and Deputy City Marshal Luther Colson. Both were killed years ago in the line of duty. (Courtesy of the Burbank Police Department)

Roll call for officers of the Burbank Police Department usually involves sitting at tables beneath fluorescent lighting.

Instead, for the Thursday p.m. shift, they gathered in the parking lot of a Ramada Inn, where Officer Matthew Pavelka was fatally wounded 15 years ago to the day in a traffic stop gone wrong.

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Pavelka had been with the department for only 10 months after serving five years in the U.S. Air Force as a military police officer. He and another officer, Gregory Campbell, attempted to contact the driver of an SUV in the hotel’s parking lot on Nov. 15, 2003 after suspecting some kind of drug activity was taking place.

That’s when the car’s occupants began to fire at the two.

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Both officers were struck by gunfire and transported to a nearby hospital for treatment. Campbell survived, but Pavelka died in surgery.

One man accused of the killing eventually pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 2012.

Burbank Officer Matthew Pavelka was fatally shot during a traffic stop at the Burbank Ramada Inn on Nov. 15, 2003.
Burbank Officer Matthew Pavelka was fatally shot during a traffic stop at the Burbank Ramada Inn on Nov. 15, 2003. (Courtesy of the Burbank Police Department)

Holding the p.m. shift roll call in the hotel parking lot is a first for the department, according to Sgt. Derek Green.

He said the shift was the same as Pavelka’s, which lasts from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following morning. It’s traditionally staffed by younger, newer officers because it’s “the least desirable.”

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Many of the officers at that roll call in the parking lot were about 10 years old when Pavelka was killed, Green said.

In addition to the standard briefing that comes with roll call, the senior officers went over details of the shooting.

“We also wanted to instill in the officers the importance of the job they’re doing and how things could change in a blink of the eye,” Green said. “It just reinforces what we signed up to do and what we’re out here doing.”

Green added there are many officers still at the department for whom the shooting “seemed like it wasn’t that long ago.”

In addition to the special roll call meeting, the Burbank Police Officers’ Assn. honored the 15th anniversary of Pavelka’s death the night before with a wreath-laying ceremony.

A wreath was placed in front of the Guardians statue outside the Burbank police and fire departments’ headquarters.

A second wreath was also placed in honor of Deputy City Marshal Luther Colson, who was gunned down on Nov. 16, 1914.

Green said Colson was on foot patrol around what is now Victory Place and Lake Street when he was ambushed. Three suspects were arrested in connection to his death.

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A total of five officers have been killed in the line of duty in the history of the department. Each are honored with their own wreaths on the anniversary of their deaths.

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