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Phoenix police honor the memory of their first officer killed in the line of duty

On Feb. 5, 1925, Officer Haze Burch was shot and killed while trying to stop two gasoline thieves in downtown Phoenix.
Credit: Phoenix Police Department

PHOENIX — These days, the crossroad of 8th and Jefferson streets is a mundane intersection near Chase Field. But almost a century ago it was the site of a shooting that claimed the life of a Phoenix police officer: The first in the department's history.

On Feb. 5, 1925, Officer William Hazleton Burch was shot and killed while trying to stop two men from stealing gasoline from a car. He was the first Phoenix Police Officer to be killed in the line of duty.

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Better known as Haze to his friends, Officer Burch's surviving family has described him as a stern but kind man and his grandson said he was a peacemaker.

As the story goes, Burch was on patrol when he saw two men trying to siphon gas from a car in the area.

What Burch didn't know was that the two men were fugitives, accused of murdering a deputy in Oklahoma and a police officer in Montana.

Burch was shot when he approached.

Officer Burch reportedly told the police chief that he knew he wasn't going to survive and asked that his family be taken care of after his passing. Survived by his wife and three young children, he passed away at 7 p.m. that night.

Although the two men fled they were eventually arrested. One was convicted for the murder of Officer Burch in Arizona, and was hanged on Jan. 8, 1926.

The other man was convicted in Texas for the murder of the Oklahoma deputy and was sentenced to life in Prison.

27 years would pass before another Phoenix Police Officer was killed in the line of duty.

Today, Officer Burch is buried at the Greenwood Memory Lawn Mortuary & Cemetery in west Phoenix and is celebrated yearly by both the Phoenix Police Department and his surviving descendants.

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