Memorial to Kevin Welsh

End of Watch: August 4, 1986
Rank: Officer Badge No. 3837
Age: 34  Years of Service: 7 years
Location of Death:  11Street Bridge, SE
Duty Assignment: Emergency Response Team, SOD



Officer Kevin Welsh drowned after jumping into the Anacostia River in an attempt to rescue a suicidal woman who had jumped off of the 11th Street Bridge. Officer Welsh and his partner, Officer O’Dell, answered a radio call for the rescue of a “jumper.” The officers arrived on the scene and jumped into the river to rescue the female who had jumped from the bridge. Suddenly, Officer Welsh indicated that he needed help, but went under and drowned before he could be assisted. Officer Welsh’s body was recovered four hours later.


Officer Welsh was assigned to the Emergency Response Team, Special Operations Division and had served with the Metropolitan Police Department for seven years. He was survived by his wife who was 8 ½ months pregnant, and two children. In his seven years on the force, Welsh had eight commendations from the police chief, 31 from his commanders for outstanding performances in the line of duty and more than 60 letters of praise sent by residents in appreciation for the assistance he had given them.


Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.

D.C. Officer Dies in Rescue Effort
Woman in Critical Condition After Plunge From 11th Street Bridge
A highly decorated D.C. police officer died in the Anacostia River yesterday after he tried to rescue an unidentified woman who had plunged from the 11th Street Bridge.

Police said Officer Kevin Welsh of the special operations division had called for help to other officers involved in the rescue, then slipped below the surface of the murky water before they could swim to him. His body was recovered by a National Airport rescue diver shortly before 7 p.m.

The woman, described as a 64-year-old St. Elizabeth’s Hospital patient, was pulled from the river about 2:30 p.m. and taken to the Washington Hospital Center, where she was listed in critical condition last night.
The apparent drowning of the 34-year-old Welsh brought top police officials to Anacostia Park on the bank of the river just below the bridge, while as many as three dozen divers from a variety of rescue units and jurisdictions worked from boats in a 4 ½ hour effort to find him.

According to a police account released last night, an unidentified police officer from the 7th District and other witnesses saw a woman jump from the bridge about 2:20 p.m. The officer notified the police communications center, and the police radio broadcast an alarm.

Welsh and his partner, James Fremeau, who were on patrol in the area, heard the call and drove to the river bank.

Two other special operations division officers, Steve O’Dell and Dana Dewey also went to the river bank.
Lt. William White III, police spokesman, said the officers saw the woman floating in the river about 50 yards from shore.
“The officers immediately dived into the water in an attempt to rescue the woman,” police said in a statement.

The four special operations division officers were quickly joined by two U.S. Park Police officers, identified as Gary Van Horne and Michael Keenan, and by two D.C. fire department paramedics, identified as Jeff Goldstein and Robert Brenneman, police said.

Late last night, police were continuing to interview witnesses and rescue participants in an effort to determine in detail what happened in subsequent moments.

However, authorities said they believed that several, and possibly all, of the rescuers reached the woman. A boat from the police harbor unit had arrived at the bridge and the woman was taken aboard. She was later flown by Park Police helicopters to the Hospital Center.

It was not clear just when Officer Welsh went under. “At one point during the rescue,” the police statement said, he “experienced difficulty….”

Others in the water had heard Welsh call for help, but he slipped beneath the surface before they could reach him, White said.

Police Chief Maurice T. Turner said Welsh, a member of the emergency response unit, had removed his pistol belt and bullet-resistant vest before entering the water.

Police said he may have been dragged under by the current.

Among those who joined the search for the officer were divers from the Prince George’s County police and fire departments, the Montgomery County fire department, the Park Police and the FBI, as well as the D.C. police and fire departments.

Welsh’s body was found about 6:50 p.m. by fireman Nelson Stickley of the Federal Aviation Administration’s firefighting and rescue branch.

Visibility in the water, which is as much as 30 feet deep near where the incident occurred, was limited to about one foot.
Stickley said he felt Welsh’s body with one hand while gripping a line with the other.
Citing Welsh’s “extraordinary large numbers of commendations “and diligent professionalism, Turner voiced high praise last night for him.

“He’ll be remembered as a team player, one who continually backed up his fellow officers and was always willing to take the initiative to help a victim of crime or to apprehend a wanted suspect,” Turner said.

Welsh’s last action “was the ultimate example of the type of officer he was,” Turner said.

Associates said Welsh’s wife is expecting their third child within three weeks. Welsh had two brothers who are members of the D.C. police department.

Welsh’s partner, Fremeau, 35, a member of the special operations division warrant squad, also “experienced difficulty” during the rescue, police said.

They said he was helped to shore and was taken to D.C. General Hospital, where he was treated and released.

An earlier account of the incident indicated that Welsh and Fremeau had themselves seen the woman plunge 30 feet into the water from the southbound span of the double-span bridge.

A spokesman for St. Elizabeth’s Hospital said last night that the description of the woman who leaped from the bridge appears to watch that of a hospital patient who had permission to leave the grounds between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
“We presume it is the same person,” said hospital spokesman Harold Thomas.

Colleagues Mourn Drowned Officer
Welsh Called “100 % Policeman”
Kevin Welsh, a man whose partner called him a “100 percent policeman,” dove to his death Monday during a rescue attempt in the Anacostia River with the same passion and commitment that marked his entire career.
“He was probably the most involved police officer I have ever met in my life,” said a detective who first met Welsh when Welsh joined the Special Operations Division of the department in 1980.

“He lived and breathed the job. He even convinced his two brothers to join the department,” the detective said.
“If it didn’t involve police work or his family, he wasn’t interested, and now he’s left behind two kids and an 8 ½ months pregnant wife.

“Nothing was too small for his attention, from a trash complaint to a murder,” the detective added. “Yesterday was the perfect example. How many policemen would have stayed on the shore and waited? The harbor patrol was on the way. There were thousands of rationalizations, but he never hesitated. He just stripped down and went in.”

According to Capt. Melvin L. Clark, head of the D.C. police Emergency Response Team, where Welsh was assigned, Welsh in his seven years on the force racked up the type of record most 20-year veterans would be proud of: eight commendations from the police chief, 31 from his commanders for outstanding performances in the line of duty and more than 60 letters of praise sent by residents in appreciation for the assistance he had given them.

“He was amazing. He was involved in everything,” Clark said. “This year alone he made 72 felony arrests, placed 91 charges and locked up 33 people on fugitive warrants.” Clark said officers make an average of about two felony arrests a month.

“He was 100 % policeman,” O’Dell said. “He had a zest for his job and what that job stood for that was second to none….He had the uncanny ability to be hard as a rock when he needed to be, but he had the passion of a missionary.”
“Kevin just popped up everywhere,” said another policeman, “whether it was being a Good Samaritan or assisting on an arrest.”

If there was any complaint about Welsh, the joke around the office went, it was that he occasionally let his police duties get in the way of being an effective go-fer.

Twice he was sent from the E.R.T. station house in Southeast Washington to police headquarters to pick up paychecks for his colleagues, and both times he stopped en-route to make arrests and arrived back at the office hours late.

About a month ago, according to Clark, D.C. Superior Court officials called with an urgent problem: They were in the middle of a trial, and Welsh, who was a key witness, had disappeared during the lunch break.

It turned out, Clark said, that while outside grabbing a sandwich, Welsh had arrested three people driving a stolen car.

“He was considered an expert in tracking stolen vehicles,” Clark said. “He was highly regarded as a police officer, and police from other jurisdictions were calling him up and asking for his advice.”
For many officers, getting involved in a case or making a celebrated arrest is simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time. But, according to his colleagues, Welsh never waited for chance encounters. He seemed to be everywhere, all the time.

At 2:20 p.m., 10 minutes before the shift change, some officers would have been en-route back to the station, their radios turned down. But Welsh and his partner were still patrolling Minnesota Avenue SE on Monday afternoon when a radio call went out that a woman had jumped into the murky waters of the Anacostia River.

They drove to the scene, and Welsh kicked off his shoes, laid aside his service revolver and dove in after her. About 10 minutes later and about 60 yards from shore, while others were rescuing the woman, Welsh slipped beneath the water’s surface.

“We had our hands full,” said Steve O’Dell, Welsh’s partner, who was in the water nearby. “We had another officer who was in trouble and we almost lost him. Kevin was worried about everybody else, and he didn’t want to take away from our efforts. He was the type of guy who would hold on for as long as he could.

“We were only a few feet away and we lost him,” O’Dell said. “But he maintained it right until the end. He never lost it. He fought, but he didn’t panic.”

Welsh’s body was found by divers about four hours later, and the D.C. Medical Examiner yesterday ruled his death a drowning.

The woman, a 64-year-old St. Elizabeth’s Hospital patient whose name has not been released pending notification of her relatives, remained in critical condition last night at the Washington Hospital Center.

A hospital spokesman said she had a heart attack during the incident and had not regained consciousness.

Leo Harrison, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service, said that tidal currents run about 1 mph two to three feet below the surface of the Anacostia, and that Welsh may have been struggling against the rush of water.

“A real good swimmer would have a problem with that velocity,” Harrison said. “An Olympic swimmer couldn’t swim in conditions like that. It’s very tiring.”

Welsh lived in Charles County with his wife, Judith, their 3-year-old son, Kevin Jr., and a 14-year-old stepson, Jeff. Other survivors include his mother, Joan, and three brothers, Joseph and Terrence, both police officers, and Richard.

A police spokesman said Welsh’s funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Holy Family Catholic Church, 2210 Callaway St., Hillcrest Heights, with burial to follow at the Resurrection Cemetery, 8000 Woodard Rd, Clinton.

Police Give a Final Salute To Officer Who Drowned
Kevin Welsh Eulogized as Leading Member of D.C. Force
Fifty police motorcycles paced the procession with a low, throttled moan. Behind them filed a six-mile cortege of patrol cars, flashing their red and blue emergency lights in silent salute.

They drove slowly past the Emergency Response Team station house at 1901 E St. SE, where Officer Kevin Welsh had worked. Then the motorcade wound its way into the country and to a Clinton cemetery, where hundreds of friends and colleagues gathered in a wooded grove to see Welsh buried yesterday.

“Kevin died as he lived—helping others,” Welsh’s commanding officer, Deputy Chief Charles E. Samarra, told mourners at the Holy Family Catholic Church in Hillcrest Heights. “It was the same great passion that drove him into the muddy waters of the Anacostia River to save a drowning stranger.”

Welsh, 34, drowned Monday after he dove into the river trying to rescue a woman who had plunged from the 11th Street Bridge. It was the final act of heroism in a career that yesterday was eulogized as one of the most dedicated and brilliant on the force.

Hundreds of District police officers in dress blues with black tape across their badges stood at attention and saluted as

Welsh’s coffin was carried from the church by the D.C. police ceremonial honor guard, followed by members of the immediate family. About two dozen flags were held aloft by color guards from seven local police departments.

After the service, hundreds of motorists along the 20-mile route between the church and resurrection Cemetery in Clinton pulled to the side of the road and watched as the motorcade passed.

At the cemetery, Welsh was honored with a three-gun salute and a duet of taps while his wife, Judith, who is 8 ½ months pregnant, his mother Joan and his stepson Jeffry tried to conceal their tears.

Welsh’s three brothers—-Terry and Joseph, both D.C. police officers, and Richard—-consoled each other as a police department helicopter flew over the cemetery, hovering briefly above the grave. An honor guard folded the American flag draping Welsh’s coffin, and D.C. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr presented it to Judith Welsh, pausing to whisper a message and kiss her lightly.

Welsh, who lived with his family in St. Charles in Charles County, has been hailed by his colleagues as one of the department’s outstanding officers.
In his seven years in the department, he received more than 41 commendations from the police chief and his commanding officers for courageous and outstanding performance of duty, as well as more than 60 letters of appreciation from residents whom he had helped.

ABC-TV last night named Welsh “Person of the Week,” a regular feature of the network’s Friday night news broadcast.

Welsh, a member of the department’s elite Emergency Response Team, was on duty Monday when he responded to a radio report that a woman had plunged from the 11th Street Bridge into the Anacostia River.

Welsh, four other police officers and two ambulance workers from the D.C. Fire Department dove into the water and swam out to the woman, who was about 60 yards off shore.

Photographs taken by a bystander who was watching the rescue effort show Welsh floating on his back, apparently trying to rest, while others were helping the woman and another officer who began floundering in the water, police officials said.
A short time later, Welsh yelled for help, but the others were unable to reach him before he slipped beneath the surface of the water. His body was found by divers about four hours later.

Welsh was the 98th D.C. police officer to die in the line of duty since the department was founded 125 years ago and the first since Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer was shot to death while trying to catch a robbery suspect outside the Minnesota Avenue Metrorail station stop on Jan. 29, 1985.

At the church service, which was attended by more than 1,500 people, including Mayor Marion Barry, U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova and police officers from as far away as Boston, Samarra said that Welsh’s final words to him were: “Chief, I just want to know that I have been as happy in my whole life as I am now.”

Samarra said that he and Welsh often joked that they were on the same wavelength, “and to the new recruits, Kevin would say, “Never lose your enthusiasm, your zeal. The most important job that anyone could have is your responsibility.”


The People a Hero Leaves Behind
It is six months since the funeral, the folded flag and the fanfares. “Six months,” says Judi Welsh, with a tone of surprise. “I can’t believe it’s six months that I haven’t rolled over in the morning and seen his face.”
She sighs, and rearranges Kevin Welsh Jr, 3 ½, who is trying (and failing) to fall asleep in her lap.

“It’s like I’m grabbing for something I can’t get a hold of,” Judi Welsh says, as Kevin stares at “L.A. Law” on the TV screen across the den. “I just miss the hell out of him. I just don’t feel like my life is ever going to be normal again.”

Kevin Welsh Sr. Was a D.C. police officer who jumped into the Anacostia River last August to try to save a drowning woman. The woman was saved by other officers, although she later died. Kevin Welsh, pulled under by the strong current, drowned a few minutes after diving in.

Welsh’s death was front-page news for a week. He was one of the most heavily decorated officers in the history of the police department. He was also the kind of police officer that every city wishes it had by the dozen, but that few do.

From the mayor, from the police chief, even from the president of the United States, the praise poured in to the Welsh family. “A policeman’s policeman,” “totally dedicated,” “incredibly able.” On Aug. 8, the day of his funeral, Welsh was chosen “Person of the Week” by ABC News, the first police officer to be so honored on national television.
But now the telegrams and flowers don’t come as often. Neither do the family’s tears. Judi Welsh is back at work as a sales manager for a town house development. Her three sons are back into their routines. If you walked into the Welsh home, you would pick up only one immediate sign of last August’s disaster: the Kevin Welsh memorabilia mounted on the hallway wall.

But how deep are the wounds? What is life like for the people a hero leaves behind? Do they adjust? Do they forget? Do they manage without his guidance, his income, his spark?

Understandably, Judi Welsh had not wanted to be interviewed immediately after the family tragedy. However, early this month, she agreed to talk for the first time since her husband’s death about how she and her three sons are doing.
“I’m having a hard time dealing with the term, “widow,” said Judi, who is only 35. “I mean, my parents died, and you kind of expect that, kind of get ready for that in the back of your mind. But this is such a totally different kind of loss.

“I just thought I would grow old with my husband. I just never imagined life without Kevin.” Judi Welsh says she still spends many hours “sitting in the kitchen and looking out the window,” and she still often sleeps with the night light and TV on all night, to try to ward off some of the loneliness and fear.

But she has broken one habit. “I used to withdraw to the point I got mean,” she said. “The baby sitter would go to the store, and if she bought one thing that wasn’t on the list, I’d get furious.” But that hasn’t happened in several weeks. Judi says she considers it a “step forward.”

Kevin Jr.’s adjustment may be the most difficult. “He’s comprehending as much as a 3 ½ year-old can,” said his mother. However, Kevin still occasionally calls his mother “Daddy.” He recently remarked to Judi that the vaporizer was kept in her bedroom “when Daddy used to come here.” And last month, Judi found Kevin looking wistfully at the picture of his father that Judi carries in her wallet. “When is he coming back? “The boy wanted to know.

But Joe Welsh makes Judi miss her husband most.

Joe was born on Aug. 20, 1986, just 16 days after his father’s death. Aug. 20 also happens to have been Kevin Welsh’s birthday. “The second that baby cried, I said, “Well, Happy Birthday, Kevin,” Judi recalls.

Judi Welsh is not mopey now, and she wasn’t entirely mopey even in the days immediately following her husband’s death.
She will merrily tell you that the winning D.C. Lottery number on the day of Kevin’s funeral was 625—-the same number as the police cruiser Kevin drove. “I know he would have played 625 if he’d been alive. We probably would have won about $5, 000,” Judi says, her eyes blinking.

And on the night before Kevin’s burial, Judi secretly placed a can of Budweiser beer in his coffin. “Kevin always said that if he went, he wanted to go with a Bud in his hand. So I took him seriously,” Judi says, chuckling.

Judi Welsh is making out financially, but only barely. A special Kevin Welsh Family Fund has been established at the National Bank of Washington, and donations from the public to that fund have certainly helped. So have the efforts of Heroes, Inc., the organization that always aids families of police officers who die in the line of duty.

“It’s all going to work out,” Judi says, as she rubs the forehead of Kevin Jr., who is at last asleep.
“I just pray to God I don’t ever disappoint these kids. I just want to make Kevin proud. As long as I’m in this house, he’s still here.”


85 Law Enforcement Officials Honored
The U.S. Attorney’s office held its seventh annual Law Enforcement Awards Ceremony last week in the lobby of the Department of Labor.

One of the 85 awards was presented posthumously. D.C. police Officer Kevin Joseph Welsh was cited for his actions on Aug. 4. Welsh drowned in the Anacostia River while assisting in the rescue of an elderly woman who had jumped into the river from the 11th Street Bridge.

Officer Welsh’s nomination for the Law Enforcement Award was made by U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova. All other nominations were made by assistant U.S. Attorneys.


Glad you shared this. If you would be so kind to correct one small thing. I was Kevin’s partner and Jerome was Dana Dewey’s partner. The post got it printed wrong the day of release and has caused some confusion ever since. I know it sounds like a small thing, but Kevin and I worked together for a long time. I introduced him to Judy who he later married, and we rode back and forth to work together almost every day. This was probably one of the most difficult days of my life.
Thanks again very much for mentioning Kevin!

(Steve O’Dell)

By day, thousands of cars travel back and forth across the 11th Street Bridge. But on Saturday, it was people, not cars, who populated the newest part of the bridge connecting Capitol Hill and Anacostia.
District officials celebrated the opening of the four-lane bridge with an old-fashioned street party, complete with high school bands, red-and-white balloon arches and face painting.

The occasion also was a chance to remember Kevin Welsh, a D.C. police officer whose name is forever tied to the structure.
In 1986, Welsh died after diving into the Anacostia River to save a woman who had jumped off the bridge. The new span is dedicated to him.

The $390 million project is largest ever undertaken by the D.C. Department of Transportation. The aim was to replace two 1960s-era crossings with three new ones that would better connect Capitol Hill with neighborhoods across the river and provide separate roadways for freeway and local traffic.
The redesigned bridge now provides direct connections between the Southeast-Southwest Freeway and both directions of Interstate/DC-295. Before the bridge was revamped, drivers had to use local streets to enter and exit both freeways.
Perhaps even more important than traffic flow is that the bridge provides another way to link the two sides of the river, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said.
“This bridge is a great way of connecting east and west,” Gray said. “We need to do more of that in this city.”
Added Ronaldo Nicholson, chief engineer of the D.C. Department of Transportation: “There is a great need to unite Capitol Hill communities with Anacostia communities.”

As a sign of the symbolic coming-together, marching bands from Eastern and Anacostia high schools, located on opposite sides of the bridge, met in the center.

The new bridge is part of an ambitious $10 billion effort to remake the Anacostia waterfront, which some say began with the construction of Nationals Park. There are efforts underway to remake the Southwest waterfront, too.

Unlike older bridges designed with only the automobile in mind, the 11th Street Bridge was built to also provide access for those traveling by foot or bicycle.

Its 14-foot sidewalks provide ample room for cyclists and pedestrians. There is a possibility that streetcars eventually could travel across the bridge. Hundreds of people walked along the bridge Saturday in near-perfect weather, venturing onto scenic overlooks that jut out over the water. They snapped pictures and feasted on cheesesteaks, hot dogs and ice cream.

If the goal was to attract people from across the District, the festivities seemed to accomplish just that.
Marven Horwitz and Sam Steinberg rode their bikes from their homes in Northwest to explore the new bridge.
“It’s a beautiful area and I really wanted to support what they’re doing out here,” Steinberg said as the pair gazed across the river.

Hope Venable of Northeast brought her son Sunjata and daughter Jocelyn.

“The weather was so nice, we thought we’d come and check it out,” she said.
Officials paused during the festivities to remember Welsh, to whom part of the original bridge had been dedicated. With the help of Welsh’s family, including sons Kevin Jr. and Joe, Gray unveiled a plaque noting the police officer’s sacrifice.

“This is truly, truly a great honor,” said Kevin Welsh, who was 5 when his father died. “It means a lot to our family that after all these years our father is still remembered.”