On 50th anniversary of shooting, retired KC officer pushing for memorial for fallen cop and hundreds others

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Ed Donahue replays the events of Groundhog Day 1968 in his mind often.

"I’ll always remember it," he said.

The 80-year old retired Kansas City Police detective only worked with Officer Hugh Butler one night, but it was a night that changed both of their lives.

“It bothers me a lot, still does when you talk about it," he said in his first ever interview about the shooting on the 50th anniversary.

The pair were working surveillance detail on Feb. 2, 1968, when the call came out of a man firing shots inside a bar at Armour Boulevard and Troost Avenue.

“We were both 30 years old, and he was supposed to get married I think in a couple weeks," Donahue said.

Ed Donahue

Two customers had already been wounded by the time they arrived at the Brass Rail Tavern.

“He had a gun in his hand, and he held his girlfriend as a shield, standing there like that, and they had a 10-year-old boy with them," Donahue said of the bizarre scene.

Donahue was shot in the hand. He worked to shield the boy in the bar when more bullets started flying from in and outside the tavern.

“Hugh came in right behind me, and they exchanged shots," Donahue said. "When I was chasing this boy, I could hear 'boom boom boom.'"

Butler’s name is now read every year at a ceremony honoring fallen officers. Donahue left the force a year after the shooting, but he came back before long, serving another 24 years with the department. Many of those were spent working at the Regional Police Academy.

In all his years at the academy, there was no place for new recruits or the general public to learn more about the officers who went before them.

"They need it, deserve it as far as I’m concerned," Donahue said of a proposal for a Regional Fallen Officer's Memorial Garden and Fountain.

Kansas City Councilwoman Heather Hall will present the plan to Kansas City's Parks and Recreation Board next week.

Unlike the monument in front of KCPD Headquarters with 111 names, this memorial would be set on 3.5 acres and include 147 officer's names from around the metro.

It's planned near the Regional Police Academy and the Trail of Heroes. The trail contains markers with officers' names. Several families also paid to erect benches in a fallen officer's honor.

Donahue spent the $500 for the memorial to the officer he only worked with one night.

“I was just lucky I was, I don’t know why I lived and Hugh didn’t," he said.