When Michael Guiardo was 10, he and his five-year-old sister Michelle were playing in their Union City apartment on November 4, 1974 when two uniformed police officers came to their door. As they watched their mother fall to her knees, the siblings knew the news was not good.
Their father, Detective Nicholas M. Guiardo, had been fatally shot in a gunfight in front of the Rapido Taxi stand. He and his partner, Charles Kohrerr, had gone to investigate suspicious activity when a suspect began to shoot, hitting Guiardo first. After being shot, Guiardo managed to grab the suspect’s shooting arm which was pointed directly at Kohrerr’s chest, deflect the shot to his leg, and save his partner’s life.
Kohrerr attended the Union City Police Benevolent Association (PBA) No. 8’s dedication of a monument in the front hall of the William V. Musto Cultural Center to six policemen who lost their lives in the line of duty.
When asked how long the two were partners, Kohrerr responded, “Not long enough. If it weren’t for him, I would probably be number seven.”
“The names [of those who lost their lives] have been and will forever be spoken with reverence and respect by the members of the police department’s family.” – Chris Scardino
Guiardo’s son remembered their early, early morning hunting trips stolen during the brief moments the detective wasn’t working, and his daughter loved the motorcycle rides they used to take together, as Guiardo was a motorcycle cop.
“He started from scratch and you could see the happiness in his face when he worked,” Michael said. “My mother told me, ‘Thank God. At least he died doing what he loved.’”
End of watch, six too many
On Jan. 28, 1922 at 1 p.m., Detective Lieutenant Charles A. Harm escorted a bank messenger with $21,000 in cash. During an ambush, Harm was shot three times and the suspect grabbed the money and fled. Harm died from his wounds hours later, and the suspect was never caught. He left behind a wife and two children.
Patrol Officer Paul Scholtz was about to be released from duty at 4 a.m. on Aug. 31, 1929. He and a fellow officer responded to a call on 33rd Street made by a woman who was having problems with her boiler. When Scholtz and the officer arrived, the boiler exploded, sending the two through the air and across the floor. Scholtz later died of third degree burns.
On March 5, 1931, Sergeant James Knight attempted to stop a vehicle traveling in wrong direction at 5 a.m. The occupants of the passing vehicle opened fire and shot Knight in the head. The suspects were later apprehended.
Detective Arthur Materka was investigating armed robberies in Hudson and Bergen counties when on Jan. 21, 1938, at 8:15 a.m., he hid in the rear of a grocery store on 21st Street and Hudson Boulevard hoping the suspect would rob the store. Later, a suspect with a .45 caliber handgun entered the store and held up the owner, who dove into a side room according to plan. He heard three gun shots, believing it was Materka hitting his mark, but when he emerged, he found the detective had been killed by the suspect, who ended up stealing $41.
On July 10, 1947, Sergeant Arthur McKenna was having breakfast at the Globe Diner on 38th Street at 2 a.m. when a suspect approached him from behind, grabbed his gun, and fired two shots into McKenna’s back. Diners held the suspect – who was an admitted cop-killer and cop hater – and called the police, who was disarmed and arrested.
Memory lives on
PBA President and Police Officer Chris Scardino approached the city hoping to create a monument to the ultimate sacrifice officers before him had made. With tears in his eyes, he told those gathered how touched he was by the willingness of the families of the fallen officers – many of whom lived far from the city – to attend the ceremony.
“The names [of those who lost their lives] have been and will forever be spoken with reverence and respect by the members of the police department,” he told family members.
Mayor Brian Stack and Scardino presented a certificate of appreciation to the city’s Leber Funeral Home owner James Leber, who donated the monument inscribed with the names of the fallen to the PBA.
“Activities such as these have been performed by some of us occasionally, and by all of us regularly,” Police Chief Brian Barrett said at the closing of the dedication. “Whether it is by fate, or by luck, or by timing, good or bad, the one ultimate truth to this profession is: There, by the grace of God, go I.”
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org