Deputy Dean Foster

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JANUARY 1, 1967

Since 1791 there have been a total of 19,298 Law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty as of 2012. During that same time period there have been 541 officers killed in the state of Michigan. Three of those 541 officers worked here at Eaton County. Deputy Cleo Platt was shot and killed in Charlotte in 1927. Deputy Don Rice was hit and killed by a drunk motorist while he assisted a stranded motorist on Lansing Road near Stewart Road in 1985. Recently Eaton County Sheriff’s Office honored Deputy Rice by placing signs dedicating that stretch of roadway to him and the sacrifice he made. The third deputy was Deputy Dean Foster who gave his life in Delta Township on New Year’s Day 1967.

Law Enforcement Officers sacrifice a great deal doing the job they love—working holidays, missing their kid’s ball games, working night shifts---and they do this to ensure that the public can live free and enjoy the American Dream. When most people are in bed, they are the ones out there chasing down bad guys and putting themselves in harm’s way. They do not become rich from this job; they do it because we love it. Unfortunately sometimes an officer has to give the ultimate sacrifice with his life. It is very important that we do not forget these officers and celebrate their lives and contributions.

All three of our deputies were killed around the holidays. Imagine what the holidays were like for their loved ones and how every year around that time what feelings this provokes.

There is a memorial to Deputy Dean Foster so that many years from now, people would be able to see a picture of him, see the story and never forget the sacrifice he and his family made so we could be a little safer when we sleep in bed at night. A copy of that memorial hangs in Delta Township Hall, Eaton County Sheriff’s Delta Patrol headquarters and the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office in Charlotte.

Under a lion statue at the National Police Memorial in Washington DC there is a quote from a survivor—“It is not how these officers died that made them heroes, it is how they lived”

Dean Foster grew up in the Jackson area. He met his wife (Margit) at Sparrow Hospital where she worked as a respiratory therapist. Dean was a saxophonist and played in the Dean Foster Jazz band. Dean and Margit had a German Shepherd named “Count” that he had planned on using as a police dog. Dean was a Grand Ledge Policeman for a short period before he worked at Eaton County Sheriff’s Department. Dean was described as a go-getter by many of his co-workers and also was described as a very fair man. Dean and Margit married in 1966 and were married for 9 months at the time of his murder.

Margit was gracious enough to meet with Sergeant Mark Wriggelsworth about the memorial and supplied him with many photos, one being the photos used in the print. Margit remarried to her husband Gary and they have three children. It took some time to locate Margit, but after considerable work it was found that she still lives here in Delta Township and has for 32 years.

Imagine Delta Twp in 1967, and specifically the area of Saginaw Highway and Waverly Road. Saginaw Highway was three lanes at the time and on the north/west side of the intersection was a gas station, then there was Sully’s—a very popular drive in restaurant. Just west of Sully’s was the intersection of Saginaw and Thomas L Pkwy. On that corner was Neal Trealor’s Sinclair’s Service station. This station was a full service gas and service station. Deputy Foster was working day shift alone and was completing his shift heading back to Charlotte when then dispatcher Ladd Reither took a call of a suspicious situation at the gas station.

The Female caller advised something strange going on at the station as two subjects not known to work at the station were going in and out of the station and they did not appear to know how to work the pumps. Deputy Foster was dispatched back up to Delta to check out the call. Deputies Gene Hoag and Joe Pinch just came on duty and were also dispatched to assist him but were some distance behind as they were coming from Charlotte. Dean did not know that these two suspects had shot the clerk, Harold Peterson and were now waiting on gas customers and pocketing the cash.

The suspects, Jerry Talison and Jerry Aikens had gone to the station to take money from the till after talking to Peterson about fixing their car. Peterson had taken their keys to their car so he could look at the problem. The two decided to shoot Peterson and then take the money. Deputy Foster arrived a short time later and left his car running in the lot. Witness accounts say that Deputy Foster unsnapped his holster and motioned the two subjects back into the station. The windows to the station were very foggy, however witnesses heard popping noises shortly after the three entered the station. A voice was then heard on the police radio saying “hello, hello I think one of your deputies has been assaulted”. This was a witness that got on the radio. Another witness across the street saw the suspects remove the cash register and place it into a 1960 Rambler and both fled in the Rambler.

Deputies Hoag and Pinch arrived a short time later and found both Deputy Foster and Harold Peterson shot inside the station.

The suspects in their haste had left their car at the station as they could not find the keys. Sheriff’s officials soon knew the suspects identity due to the car left and other evidence found at the station. The Rambler was later located in the City of Lansing.

Suspect Talison was turned in by his bond agent days after the incident as he was out on bond for another similar type robbery. Suspect Jerry Aikens was found in New York City after a nationwide manhunt. Both were tried in Eaton County and convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. A fingerprint of Aikens was found and identified in the Rambler and was a big piece of evidence. Both suspects are still incarcerated today in the Michigan Department of Corrections. This case as recently as three years ago was spotlighted as Talison filed an appeal and it was denied due to the hard work of the Eaton County Prosecutors office, specifically Assistant Prosecuting Attorney William Worden.

The same day there was another related line of duty death—Officer Gerald Rosa of the Battle Creek Police Department was manning a roadblock in attempt to apprehend Fosters killers when he was struck and killed by a out of control driver.

Deputy Dean Foster—we salute you and you are not forgotten.

 (authored  by Eaton County Sheriff's Sergeant Mark Wriggelsworth)

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