Pocket park would help right a century-old wrong

By Lisa Truesdale 

On Oct. 28, 1915, Louisville police officer Victor Helburg found himself in a heated dispute with a fruit and vegetable peddler. Tragically, what began as an argument over the payment of license fees ended with the peddler pulling out a rifle, shooting Helburg and fleeing the scene on his horse and cart. He was never seen again.

Victor-HelburgHelburg, a German immigrant who had also served as the town’s water commissioner and town clerk, died right there in the street near the intersection of Main and Pine (pictured above)—the first and only Louisville police officer ever to be killed in the line of duty.

Because the town of Louisville had no money at the time for death or survivor benefits, Helburg’s wife and five children were essentially forced into poverty after the murder. Though Helburg was eventually listed on both the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial in Golden in the 1990s, there is still no formal dedication to him in Louisville, except for photos and other memorabilia displayed in a small cabinet inside the police station.

Louisville policeman Victor Helburg  was murdered on the job in 1915. A century later, fellow officer Robert Sampson is spearheading the effort to dedicate a pocket park to Helburg’s memory.
Louisville policeman Victor Helburg was murdered on the job in 1915. A century later, fellow officer Robert Sampson is spearheading the effort to dedicate a pocket park to Helburg’s memory.

Louisville resident Robert Sampson, who is also a Louisville police officer, is desperately trying to right what he and many others believe to be an egregious wrong. He has proposed the building of a pocket park adjacent to the police station and municipal court on Via Appia Way, complete with shaded benches, a stone fountain and a memorial plaque honoring Helburg.

“We’re coming up on the hundred-year anniversary, so we really wanted it to happen soon,” says Sampson, who has been coordinating the grassroots effort for more than two years. The project, which will require an estimated $50,000, is relying heavily on contributions from businesses and individuals to help make up the difference after the city of Louisville dedicates $10,000 to the cause, plus possible matching funds of up to $20,000—although that might not happen until 2016, Sampson says, well past the anniversary.

The future construction of Helburg Memorial Park has turned into something of a regional effort, with donations coming in from neighboring towns and cities. “We’re thankful for generous contributions received from Precision Plumbing in Boulder, Mercedes of Westminster, a real-estate broker in Broomfield and many others,” Sampson says. “But we still have a long way to go if we want to meet our looming deadline, and we’re asking Louisville residents and businesses to help out as well.”

To learn more about Helburg, see sketches of the proposed park and find out how to donate, visit www.helburgmemorial.com.