Denver’s first African American officer killed on duty honored

DENVER – Saturday morning, dozens of people gathered at the historic Riverside Cemetery to remember Denver’s first African-American police officer who died in the line of duty, Willie O. Steam.

Officer Steam was shot and killed in the line of duty on February 19, 1921.

“Today is a fitting time to honor his sacrifice, during African American history month,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

When Steam was murdered, the city paid $125 dollars for his funeral. But somehow, Steam never had a headstone until now.

“To Willie O. Steam and to his family, thank you for your service,” Mayor Hancock said.

Dozens of people gathered for the unveiling of the gravestone, including Dorothy Hollis.

“It's mainly (for) support,” Hollis told FOX31.

Hollis knows all too well about supportive the law enforcement community is. Her daughter, Celena Hollis, was Denver’s first African American female officer to die in the line of duty, in 2012.

“Anytime they’re being honored for anything, I’m definitely here,” Hollis said. “Because I and my family received so much support from them.”

Nearly a century after a deadly shooting shook Denver’s thin blue line and took officer Willie O. Steam's life, the support for him is as strong as ever.

Now his memory will be etched, not in stone, but in granite.

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