Time capsule found beneath Arizona Peace Officers Memorial statue
PHOENIX - A secret was hidden inside a well-known memorial outside the Arizona State Capitol.
During recent renovations, workers stumbled upon a box buried beneath the base of the statue located in the heart of Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza.
No one knew exactly what was in it, until now.
The statue at the Arizona Peace Officers Memorial near 17th Avenue and Jefferson Street is hard to miss. Etched into it are the names of those officers with some dating back to the mid-1800s.
"I've been told that that statue is the best peace officer memorial statue in the entire United States," said historian Marshall Trimble.
The beginnings of the memorial don't go back quite as far.
The board was established in 1986. Shortly thereafter, they began to gather funding. In 1987, a groundbreaking ceremony that included then-Arizona Attorney General Bob Corbin, was held. Also there that day was Trimble.
"I just remember we were shoveling out there.. we did a ceremonial shovel for breaking ground," he said.
Trimble was one of the original board members. He remembers the biggest hurdle was deciding on what type of statue to have.
"Everybody had a different idea for the concept and the statue."
That's when they turned to artist Wes Chapman for help.
"I went to Wes and said, can you do this? And he said 'I'll talk to Gordon,' and that's how the whole thing started," said Trimble.
Chapman used former Phoenix Police Officer Gordon Selby as his muse.
"Let's have Gordon standing.. no, let's have him kneeling down as in reverence.. that's what it's really supposed to represent. Mourning a police officer who died in the line of duty and that's exactly what we came up with," said Trimble.
Eventually, the statue and the memorial began to take shape and so did the idea to hide a piece of history inside the base. Trimble says it was former board member, Trudy Chapman, who first suggested it.
The members filled the box with items related to the memorial, such as pictures from the early days of construction, a letter from Corbin asking for donations, and a VHS tape of the ribbon cutting ceremony -- but the most coveted items inside the time capsule were the original blueprints of the statue.
"Maybe around the year 2000, we were wondering what happened to all the paperwork and all the records," said Trimble.
State historians and archivists had spent years searching for those original drawings. So as work began on the remodel, construction crews came upon a hidden area, buried in the ground below -- and that's when they found the locked time capsule.
"It was meant to be found someday," said Trimble. "I think we were thinking in a hundred years.. 2088."
But the discovery came earlier than expected because the memorial eventually ran out of space. Over the last 30 years, the number of officers killed in the line of duty grew, but the memorial didn't and there became a need for more room for their names.
"I really believe we thought it would last a lot longer. We didn't realize at the time we would have to do a remodel," said Trimble. "I guess we didn't plan that far enough ahead and we didn't realize Arizona would grow like it did and we would have losses like that."
One person who was hoping they wouldn't need more room was Wes Chapman. The artist, who died only a couple of years after his creation was unveiled, left a letter about his beloved statue -- one that he affectionately referred to as "Clyde." In it, was a message for the future:
"I do hope that by the time this package is opened that my friend Clyde here will still be in good condition and carrying on his vigilance over the officers remembered here."
"Wouldn't it be something if somehow a section had been found this time that put an end to any more names being added," read Trimble.
Each May, a ceremony is held at the memorial to honor the officers who have died. It's part of National Police Week.
2020's ceremony was cancelled due to COVID-19. This year's event could be delayed, but renovations on the memorial are expected to be completed by that time.