MILWAUKEE (AP) — A nonprofit group voted unanimously Wednesday to add the name of a Milwaukee-area police officer to a national memorial honoring officers killed in the line of duty.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund agreed to add Wauwatosa police Officer Jennifer Sebena to the memorial in Washington, D.C., following pressure from state lawmakers, police and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The 30-year-old officer was shot in the head multiple times as she conducted a routine solo patrol in the pre-dawn hours of Christmas Eve.
The group had previously excluded Sebena because her husband is the suspect in the shooting, meaning her death could be classified as a case of domestic violence. Walker, the Wisconsin Professional Police Association and more than 16,000 signatures on an online petition helped persuade the group to reverse its decision, said WPPA spokesman Jim Palmer, who cast one of the 15 votes.
"This is obviously the right result," Palmer said.
The reversal came after board members consulted with the Wauwatosa police chief, examined the criminal investigation reports and reviewed precedent, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund said in a statement.
Sebena's husband, 30-year-old Benjamin G. Sebena, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide in her death.
Prosecutors say Benjamin Sebena, an Iraq War veteran, told investigators he was a jealous husband and acknowledged that he ambushed his wife. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and his trial is scheduled to start in July.
Palmer said the WPPA scoured the memorial fund's website and found other officers honored by the group had died in similar circumstances, prompting the nonprofit's change of heart. Palmer said he hoped the memorial board would avoid future controversies by enacting clear rules dictating the circumstances under which officers' names would be added.
"They have a difficult test every year. These decisions aren't necessarily easy," Palmer said. "Clearly there needs to be uniformity in how they evaluate these cases."
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a private nonprofit group. The names of more than 19,000 officers are carved on the memorial comprising a pair of 300-foot-long curving marble walls, according to the group's website.
Sebena's name will be added to the memorial in time for a May 13 ceremony honoring slain police officers.
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund: http://www.nleomf.com
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.