ST PAUL, Minn. — The St. Paul Police Department marked the 50th anniversary of the murder of Officer James Sackett Friday with a squad car procession past his widow's home, and a special delivery.
Chief Todd Axtell and Sacket's former patrol partner, Glen Klothe, presented Jeanette Sackett with a bouquet of flowers and other mementos in honor of her fallen husband.
"Fifty years ago, I was crying of a broken heart, the loss of my husband, my kids' father, a heck of a policeman," Jeanette Sackett told reporters Friday.
"And I'm crying again today. It’s still so painful this time of year for me."
Officer Sackett was shot to death the night of May 22, 1970 while responding to what turned out to be a fake emergency call. Investigators say it was all designed to lure him into a fatal trap.
Sackett was picked at random, according to prosecutors, as part of a plan to attract the attention of the Black Panthers by killing a white officer. The conspiracy was allegedly aimed at convincing leaders of that revolutionary organization to launch a chapter in St. Paul.
It wasn't until 2006 that prosecutors were able to secure a murder conviction in the case. They pinpointed Ronald Reed as the sniper who fired the deadly rifle shot, based on information from others with knowledge of the plot.
Sackett was only 27 years old when he was murdered, leaving behind his wife and four young children. The St. Paul PD has kept his memory alive in the five decades since his death.
In a Facebook Post Friday, Chief Todd Axtell wrote, "His killing has stood as a reminder of the very real dangers Saint Paul’s guardians face and the enduring sacrifices their families make."
"Today, as we mark the 50th anniversary of his death, it’s also heartening to know that his community hasn’t forgotten him, his loved ones or those who followed him into the profession of law enforcement."
In normal times, Jeanette Sackett would've been an honored guest at the department's annual peace officer memorial observance. The coronavirus crisis led the chief to come up with an alternative that would allow for social distancing.