Officer of the Month for March 2001

Trooper Dean Alan Kerklo

McKeesport (PA) Police Department

Washington, DC—The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Trooper Dean Alan Kerklo as its Officer of the Month for March 2001.
The steel mines of Pennsylvania provide employment for many, and although grateful to have work, Dean Kerklo feared that the job offered him a dim future. He wanted a family and a career that that would give him greater satisfaction and fulfillment. He wanted to be a police officer. As luck would have it, his meeting the girl of his dreams, Darlene Halasynski, would ultimately satisfy his desire to leave the steel mines and pursue the career he had dreamt about. Like his daughter, Captain Dennis Halasynski of the McKeesport, Pennsylvania Police Department saw something special in this young man. With Captain Halasynski’s support and encouragement, Dean Kerklo graduated from the Pennsylvania State Police Academy in January 1995.
By 1999 Trooper Kerklo had completed Drug Interdiction Training, as well as training in Aggressive Patrol and Criminal Enforcement. He had received four Troop Commander’s Letters of Recognition for DUI arrests. In 1998 alone he had been involved in two significant incidents. In one he rescued the driver from a burning vehicle after the driver, a burglary suspect, had crashed his car during a high-speed police pursuit. In the second, Kerklo pulled to safety an individual who was threatening to jump from a bridge.
However, on September 30, 1999 Dean Kerklo’s world turned upside down, when he responded to a call from a woman whose estranged husband, in violation of a Protection from Abuse Order, had forcibly entered her home. The armed man, who was scheduled to appear in court the following day for a previous PFA violation, forced the victim into the bathroom and threatened to kill her.
Upon their arrival, Trooper Kerklo and other members of the Patrol Unit followed the terrified woman’s screams to the secured bathroom. When the man refused orders to open the door, it was kicked open and Trooper Kerklo was the first to enter. The husband, who was brandishing a fully loaded handgun, stood waiting for him. Trooper Kerklo’s one thought was to disarm the husband and get the woman safely out of harms way. Without regard for his own personal safety, Trooper Kerklo advanced toward the gunman. In the ensuing struggle, the husband’s gun discharged and Trooper Kerklo was shot in the face. As the seriously wounded Kerklo continued to try and pull the woman to safety, her husband shot her in the back of the head. Another trooper returned fire, striking the husband in the chest. Simultaneously, the husband shot himself in the head and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The bullet from the husband’s gun struck Trooper Kerklo in the chin and lodged in his cervical spine. His injuries required that he undergo hours of delicate surgery and while still on medical leave, he continues an extensive rehabilitation regiment. The wife fully recovered from her injuries.
There is no doubt that the man had every intention of killing his ex-wife that day. Had Trooper Kerklo not entered the bathroom immediately after the door had been kicked open, it is very likely that the husband would have had that split second needed to succeed in his attempt to murder his estranged wife. One statement in Trooper Kerklo’s personnel file reads, “The willful and knowing actions of Trooper Kerklo, who dutifully put himself in harms way for the safety of the victim and his fellow officers, is no less than heroic and may well have saved the victim’s life.”
“A hero is a person who rises to the occasion and does whatever needs to be done, regardless of the risk involved,” said Colonel Paul J. Evanko, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. “Trooper Kerklo has proven he is a hero in every sense of the word.”
Trooper Kerklo is a member of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association and the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #62. He is a leader in the State Police efforts to take drunken drivers off the road and he participates in the Heart-to-Heart Picnic, sponsored by Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Although he still has limited use of his right side, Trooper Kerklo looks forward to each day and remains proud to be a member of the law enforcement profession. “He would do it again”, says Darlene Kerklo of her husband. When asked from where he gets his strength and inspiration during these long months of recovery and rehabilitation, Trooper Kerklo says he looks to his six-year old daughter, Carlie, whose heart condition presents her with daily challenges. To him, she’s the true hero in the family.
Police Unity Tour
The Police Unity Tour is the official sponsor of the Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Program.