Excerpts from the remarks of former State Senator, Steven C. Panagiotakos at the Rededication of the Christos G. Rouses Memorial…November 17, 2019
Let me start by saying how proud I am to be part of a community that honors those, who have given their lives protecting us, no matter how long ago it was and those who serve and have served, protecting us 24-7, no matter what the circumstance, no matter what the danger.
Let me share with you a story, as true as I know it about a Lowell police officer, his family and this community.
It was Friday, November 17th, 1978. A Lowell police officer, near the end of the day shift, was assisting at a fire on Princeton Boulevard. A call came over the radio of a silent alarm going off about a half a mile away at a drug store on Branch Street.
That officer knew the pharmacist and his family. He knew the neighborhood families. That officer did not hesitate but answered Car 6 responding. Within a little over a minute that officer was on the scene. As he went through the front door of the pharmacy, he was told by the employees that they had been robbed and the perpetrator had ran out the back door.
That officer quickly went through the back door and spotted the perpetrator up the street. He began his pursuit on foot and called for the perpetrator to stop.
The perpetrator didn’t. As he caught up with the perpetrator at 11 Smith Street, a scuffle ensued and then two shots went off. That officer was shot twice and was down. The perpetrator ran to a waiting car and fled the scene.
That officer was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital with gunshot wounds from a 38 caliber to his head and chest. That officer died at the hospital.
From the time he responded to the time he was shot, was less than 5 minutes. Just 5 minutes later and he would have been on his way back to the station for the end of his shift and heading home for dinner.
Earlier that day that officer had spoken to an assembly of students at Lowell High School about community policing, long before community policing became a recognized term and policy because it was the type of serving and protecting that he naturally, intuitively practiced…Know the community…Know the people in the community…Treat them with respect…Develop trusting relationships…Diffuse situations before they start… and protect them.
And that’s exactly what he was doing when he answered that call.
A few months before, after many years of night classes, that officer graduated with a bachelor’s degree from ULowell. A few weeks before that, he and his family had sold their 2 family house on the corner of Stevens and Middlesex streets and moved to their single family dream house. And, just a few days before, that officer had been told that he would realize his long-desired career goal of being promoted to detective. He had given 22 years of service to his city and he and his family were enjoying the benefits of his hard work and dedication. The future was bright for that officer and his family…but those 5 minutes…those 5 minutes changed all that.
That officer was Christos Rouses….. He was my uncle.
He was well known and loved in the city of Lowell. His smile and laugh were infectious. People loved being in his company and he loved being in theirs.
At his funeral, his car, Car 6, was to lead the procession from the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church to West Lawn Cemetery but, after having no known mechanical problems in the recent past, Car 6 just wouldn’t turn over. It was like so many of us in the city that day. It just didn’t want to say goodbye.
After a half hour delay and several starts and stops, it begrudgingly accepted its responsibility and started up.
The streets of Lowell were lined with mourners. Signs of condolences filled the roadways. School children assembled in front of their schools. Elderly people, some steading themselves on their canes, stood in front of their homes. Shop owners and bar owners with their employees and patrons, neighborhood families, people, who he had helped and a few he had arrested, filled the sidewalks along the way.
It didn’t matter because they were giving back, what he had given them…RESPECT.
And, as a city, as a community, we instinctively knew that when a police officer is killed in the line of duty, a piece of us dies too, a piece of our safety, a piece of our security, a piece of our peace.
And for the family…
My Aunt, Stama, she was never the same. She and Chris had suffered the loss of my cousin, Diana, as a child to Leukemia but they had each other to get through. Now, Chris was gone.
My cousins, twin girls, Sally and Sandy, would forever carry around with them a melancholy that was palpable and a loss that never went away.
And my cousin George, who was the first family member to make it to the hospital, saw his father with the two bullet holes lying on the hospital table and had to go out and tell his mother and grandmother that his father was gone. For him, those memories are as present today, as they were 41 years ago.
In dealing with their grief, people would sometimes rhetorically ask, “Why didn’t he just say he was tied up at the fire? Why didn’t he just wait for another car to respond, his shift was ending in a few minutes?” But they knew why, because they knew Chris. It was his job, therefore it was his duty.
This morning, as we rededicate this beautiful statute, let us remember and honor the three other Lowell Police Officers, who died in service to our city in the line of duty.
- Officer Patrick F. Leavitt, who died after a heart attack while on duty on December 18, 1941
- Officer George F. A. Pearsall, who was killed by gunfire on April 24, 1957
- Officer John J. Winn, who was killed by assault on May 3, 1971
May all of their memories be eternal…and may we as a community…always appreciate…and never take for granted…the service…and sacrifice…that has been given …and is being given…for us….by our police officers.
2 responses to “Christos Rouses – A Lowell Story”
Very well said. I knew that Officer and he was a wonderful man and the day he was shot has always stuck in my mind, it was very sad and senseless and a tremendous loss for his family and our community. RIP Officer Rouses
I arrived in the communication room at the LPD at 4:30 PM when I arrived I was informed there had been a shooting and a police officer was shot, officer Rouses. Brian McMahon and I were working for CETA in the communications room and this was a moment frozen in time for 45-years. I did not know officer Rouses personally, but he was always friendly and cordial, A real gentleman and a cops cop. I was able to serve 35 years on the LPD and I worked with some incredibly brave and dedicated men and women. Open my career every time I pass the monument statue of officer rouses guiding a young boy I said a silent prayer as I did today when I went to pick up a LPD veterans hoodie. God bless the richest family and especially Stephen who keeps his memory alive