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The City Journals

City to Rename Justice Center After First Fallen Officer

May 05, 2016 04:34PM ● By Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

West Jordan - West Jordan City is changing the name of the West Jordan Justice Center to the Thomas M. Rees Justice Center to honor the city’s first police officer who was killed on duty. 

“Since I began discussing the name change I’ve heard almost unanimous hurrahs, yippies, and go-for-its,” Councilmember Zach Jacob said. “Anyone who has given the ultimate sacrifice to put their life on the line to protect us, ought to be remembered. They deserve all the recognition and honor that we could possibly dole out.” 

Jacob’s resolution to name the center after Rees passed in a unanimous vote by the city council in the March 9 meeting. The center will be renamed and dedicated on Feb. 23, 2017 — the anniversary of Rees’ death and 50-year anniversary of the West Jordan Police Department. 

Rees was shot in a training accident in 1986 as he and another officer were trying to demonstrate how suspects might attempt to take a gun away from an officer. The other officer’s pinky finger caught on the trigger of Rees’ revolver, sending a .38-caliber bullet through his chest. Rees was airlifted to the hospital, but died two hours later, according to his Officer Down Memorial Page. 

“He was a very good cop — one that I wanted to be like,” Bob Shober, lieutenant for West Jordan Police Department and friend of Rees, said. “It’s a great idea to have something named after him, because some people might have forgotten.” 

West Jordan Police Department has had two fallen officers on duty since its institution. The other officer, Ron Wood, was killed trying to apprehend a robbery suspect on Nov. 18, 2002. Wood loved to play baseball, so it was fitting that the baseball park at 5900 New Bingham Highway was named after him, Shober said. 

Rees deserves the same kind of recognition, Jacob said. He was a model officer but didn’t take much credit for what he did, according to Shober. 

“Still, with what we are doing here, I bet he is rolling over in grave,” Shober said. “Rees was reserved and never liked the limelight.” 

Rees trained Shober, and the two formed a friendship, eventually each being the best man at the other’s wedding. When Rees passed, Shober’s first child was six months old.

“She would have later called him ‘Uncle Tom,’” Shober said. “Our philosophy was to raise our kids like Tom’s because they are so awesome.”

When he passed away, Rees left a wife, two children and a step-child, whom he treated as his own. He had been a single father before he met his wife and brought his children up with excellent values and respect, according to Shober. 

Shober broke the news of Rees’ death to his wife, Cindy. He said it was one of the hardest moments of his career. Rees’ son Travis was like a “second son” to Shober because both families were close. Even after Rees’ death, Shober continued to take Travis under his wing.

Travis Rees grew up to follow in his father’s footsteps. He’s now a lieutenant in the West Jordan Police Department. 

“He took after his dad’s example, and maybe, hopefully, mine too,” Shober said. 

Although Jacob said Travis was appreciative of the renaming, he was not willing to comment on the name change for the justice center publicly. Like his dad, he doesn’t like recognition and attention, Shober said. 

“The two are two peas in a pod,” Shober said. “The way he talks and holds himself — my wife always says, ‘When I look at Travis, I see Tom.’” 

Shober sometimes gets emotional about the loss of his friend, even now, but he tries to focus on the blessing that it was to know him. He said he remembers the funny experiences they had together, like the time when Rees pushed him down while they were running away from a surveillance detail after the suspect caught them in the area. 

“He just kept running,” Shober said while laughing. “We sure had fun in our day. I miss the hell out of him.”