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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) - A memorial honoring a Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety officer killed in the line of duty was unveiled Wednesday afternoon.
The Eric Zapata Community Memorial -- a bronze bust of Zapata -- is nestled in a peaceful garden on the north end of the Kalamazoo Mall in downtown Kalamazoo.
Zapata was killed on April 18, 2011 while assisting a fellow officer under heavy gunfire.
Friends, family and fellow officers were on hand for artist Brent Harris of the Alchemist Foundry to unveil the statue.
"My worst fear was that he would be forgotten. My dream has come true. He'll never be forgotten," Zapata's mother Connie Bernal said.
Zapata left behind his mother, father and three children. His son Jacob smiled with pride during the ceremony.
"I just thank them for coming here," he said.
According to organizers, the sculpture and landscaping are positioned in a way for Zapata to "keep watch" on the city.
"It is an honor bestowed to the family. An honor bestowed to the community," Bernal said. "When you come here, you can sit down and talk to him. You can read him a book. You can tell him the good, bad or whatever, and he'll be there looking down on you."
Zapata, 35, had served 10 years with the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety at the time of his death. He was the first KDPS officer to die in the line of duty.
"What I ask you to do is please don't stop showing your appreciation for you public safety officers," KDPS Chief Jeff Hadley said during the event. "It is those small gestures that sustain their spirit in the midst of immense challenges we face every day."
The creation of the memorial was a community effort spearheaded by the Kellogg Community Federal Credit Union -- the main fundraiser -- and KDPS.
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