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Community comes to aid of officer

FRIDAY, JAN. 21, 2005

Police officers and firefighters often respond to the same accidents, crime scenes and disasters, forging a sort of brotherhood between the two professions, said Coeur d’Alene firefighter Jake Bieker.

But when faced with a potentially dangerous person, the police always go through the door first. So, after the Dec. 28 shooting of Coeur d’Alene Police officer Mike Kralicek, firefighters began looking for a way to help out.

Kralicek is still in critical condition at a Seattle hospital and recently had surgery to repair his jaw. He is able to answer yes-no questions through eye movement, according to Bieker, who speaks with Kralicek’s family members every few days.

“They’re extremely grateful for what’s going on right now,” said Bieker.

A police and fire honor guard will start a benefit auction and dinner at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Coeur d’Alene Inn. The live auction will start at 7 p.m., and silent auctions will be open through the evening.

The effort started with a raffle of some autographed movie posters from the film “Ladder 49” donated to the Fire Department by actor John Travolta before the shooting.

“As soon as it was in the papers that we were going have the raffle, people just started calling us,” said Bieker. “We were getting so many things (donations), we knew we could do something bigger.”

Among the items for raffle and auction are a script from “NYPD Blue” signed by actor Dennis Franz, a guitar signed by musician Randy Travis and a hockey jersey signed by NHL player Adam Deadmarsh. There are trips to a Gonzaga basketball game, a Seattle Mariners game or a night at the Coeur d’Alene Resort with dinner and spa visit. Rose Backs, of Mr. Auction, will be selling jewelry, art, wine baskets and a wood stove. A bidder may also buy a double date with a single male firefighter and a police officer.

The Northwest Women in Business Network volunteered to help after a firefighter spoke to their group about the upcoming public safety bond election. With less than three weeks to plan, Diana Tuttle and the other women took up the cause.

“Those officers are here to protect our community. If we didn’t stand up, what would that say about our community?” Tuttle said. When the auction starts, the group will work the crowd to sell raffle tickets. “I’ve got the hottest sales team in the county.”

Money raised will help Kralicek’s wife and children with the expenses of staying in Seattle as Kralicek recovers and will help the family with expenses when he is able to leave the hospital.

“It’s hard to know how things will go,” said Bieker. “We’re doing everything we can to raise as much money as possible so that if she (Kralicek’s wife) has to take time off to care for him, she can do that.”

Tuttle has been getting calls for tickets from Boise, Missoula and Seattle.

“Some want to come and spend money, some are volunteering, and some are law enforcement coming to support their brother,” he said. Of 1,000 tickets available, there are only about 150 left.

Bieker said Kralicek’s family has already used some money from the fund set up at Wells Fargo Bank in Coeur d’Alene. Money raised by the Jan. 26 event will go into the fund.

The Coeur d’Alene Inn donated the conference center for the evening and $6 of each $20 ticket will pay for the simple spaghetti buffet dinner.

“Except for dinner, every dime goes into the (family) fund,” said Tuttle.

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