JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge
When Detective K.J. DeWitt arrives on the fourth floor of the Safety Building in downtown Toledo for work each night, he finds comfort.
On the wall hangs a plaque honoring his longtime partner and friend, Toledo police Officer Keith Dressel, who was killed in the line of duty one year ago this week.
For Detective DeWitt, being at work helps him heal.
"When I come in and do this job, I can continue doing what he was doing," said Detective DeWitt, who graduated from the police academy alongside Detective Dressel in 1993.
"We're going to finish the job he started."
Being a vice detective was a job Detective Dressel loved, a job he gave his life for.
The 13-year veteran of the Toledo police department was killed Feb. 21, 2007, when he and other undercover officers approached 15-year-old Robert Jobe and Sherman Powell, 19, about 2 a.m. in the 1400 block of Ontario Street.
After officers confronted the teenagers, both young men ran into the fog in opposite directions.
According to police, Detective Dressel caught up with Jobe, they struggled, and the teenager fired a fatal shot.
He died a half hour later at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.
In an instant, a father and mother lost their son, a wife lost her husband, and two children lost their dad.
Detective DeWitt was not working the night his partner was shot.
He recalls driving through thick fog on the way to the hospital, wondering if things would have been different if he had been with Detective Dressel that night - a feeling echoed by Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre.
"I think when something like that happens, you can't help but ask yourself that question: 'Could you have done something different to keep it from happening?'•" Chief Navarre asked.
But the chief, like many others, is unsure.
"I don't know if there's anything I could have done to prevent this from happening," he said.
Since the incident, the chief said there have been changes within the vice narcotics unit. Citing safety concerns, he declined to divulge details.
During the last year, family and friends have mourned the loss of the slain Toledo vice detective.
They have attended countless court proceedings stretched over a nine-month period leading up to November, when Jobe was found guilty of murder and sentenced to serve 18 years to life in prison.
They have felt the pain of Detective Dressel's absence during the holidays. They have good days and they have bad days. But through the ups and downs, their hope is that Detective Dressel is not forgotten.
Sitting in the living room of her South Toledo home, Danielle Dressel said it's important that people remember her husband was killed serving the city of Toledo. A picture of Detective Dressel is hung above a fireplace nearby.
"He was working for the people of this community and he gave his life for them," Mrs. Dressel said. "What he did was so important."
"One of my biggest fears is that he is going to be forgotten and what he died for will be forgotten," she said.
That fear is shared by Detective DeWitt.
"We don't want what happened to him to become a faded memory," he said. "As long as everybody keeps thinking about him, then we'll continue to have him here with us."
For Michael and Larraine Dressel, they said it doesn't seem possible for their son to be forgotten.
"Keith really touched a lot of people," his mother said.
At the slain detective's funeral in Temperance, Larraine Dressel said a man, who was visibly upset, told her how her son had saved his life.
The man said Detective Dressel got him to stop using drugs and helped him turn his life around.
After their son's death, the couple also learned that on Thanksgiving, Detective Dressel had prepared an entire meal for one of his confidential informants because he knew the family was struggling.
"We knew he was a good guy, but I didn't know he touched so many people," Larraine Dressel said.
Three weeks ago, Danielle Dressel began working part time at the Toledo Police Department in the missing persons unit.
Just months after her husband's death, Mrs. Dressel received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration from Tiffin University. Her job with Toledo police involves work inside the office.
She said being surrounded by her husband's former colleagues has helped her move forward.
"All these people [at the police department] cared about Keith and that transfers to me," she said.
Mrs. Dressel said she too finds comfort when she walks into the Safety Building in downtown Toledo each morning because the first thing she sees is "a big banner with Keith's face on it."
Around every corner and on several walls throughout the building, there are constant reminders of the fallen hero. There are certificates, plaques, and pictures hung in his memory.
Although a year has passed since Detective Dressel was killed on that cold, dark street in North Toledo, Mrs. Dressel said many questions remain unanswered.
She continues to struggle to understand why Jobe fired that fatal shot - a question that is more difficult when asked by her 5-year-old son, Noah.
"Why did the bad man shoot daddy?" the young boy asks his mother.
Mrs. Dressel's only answer: "I don't know, bud."
"I don't know the answers to those questions," she said. "I have a hard time myself understanding what's happened."
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