SHAMOKIN DAM — For those who knew Shamokin Dam police officer Charles Attig Jr., the night of June 10, 1983, is forever burned into their memories, even 30 years later.
That night, Dean Troutman, angry that he had received a traffic ticket from another police officer, set out to get revenge and mistakenly shot Attig, who had switched cars with the officer who issued Troutman’s ticket.
Attig was in the middle of a separate traffic stop along the Old Trail at the time.
“My husband was laying on the couch there,” said Rosa Attig, Charles Attig’s mother, pointing to a sofa in her living room. “We got a call and somebody said (there was a shooting). I said, ‘Oh no, I hope it wasn’t my son.’”
Rosa said she raced to the scene only to find traffic blocked.
“It was all blocked up,” she said. “An officer told me, ‘You can’t go any farther.’ They had my other son go and identify his brother.”
Pausing, Rosa said she remembers feeling a bit of resignation to his death.
“There’s nothing you can do,” she said. “What can you do? He wasn’t even the one who gave (Troutman) the ticket!”
Now, 30 years after her son’s murder, the borough is stopping to remember the officer killed in the line of duty, proclaiming today “Officer Charles Attig Memorial Day.”
Putting it on the line
Joe McGranahan, who was Borough Council president in 1983 and is now mayor of Shamokin Dam, also remembers that night 30 years ago.
“At the time, I was general manager of Sunbury Broadcasting and I got a call from our assistant news director — Peggy Chamberlain Roup — telling me that she was on her way to the scene of a Shamokin Dam policeman being shot and killed on the Old Trail,” he said.
Remembering that night is important because it shows how much officers put on the line every day, McGranahan said.
“I have often said that when you start a shift as a police officer, there is no guarantee you will get home to your family safely,” he said. “Police officers accept that in order to protect us. It’s important for all of us to never forget that they put their lives on the line every day.”
“Mom, get your camera”
That’s what Rosa thought when Charles — known as “Charlie” to his friends — took the job in Shamokin Dam, she said.
Charlie always wanted to be a police officer, Rosa said, but before joining law enforcement, he followed in his father’s footsteps, joining the Army and serving time in Germany.
Rosa’s living room has a portrait of Charles on the day of his graduation from the State Police Academy. She also has two photographs of him in his Shamokin Dam Police Department uniform, one of him near his police cruiser and one of him standing in front of her house.
These photographs hold treasured memories, she said.
A week before he was murdered, Charles arrived at his parents’ home on Ninth Avenue and told them to grab their cameras.
“We were saying we didn’t have any pictures of him in his uniform,” she said. “He comes home and says, ‘Mom, get your camera.’ I made him stand out there in front of the rhododendrons.”
Memories from scene vivid
Roup, now a Snyder County commissioner, said the events of that night are still “vivid.”
“I just returned home from buying groceries that evening,” she said. “I walked in the front door and my phone was ringing off the hook.”
She remembers picking up the phone and hearing one of her friends screaming.
“She was screaming, ‘Oh my God, they shot him!’” Roup said. “‘They shot him! They shot the police officer!’”
Roup remembers the rest of the night unfolding in slow motion, with one of the most clear memories being when officers arrested Troutman, who had fled into the nearby Olde Trail Inn.
“(The police) came out en masse, about six officers,” she said. “Each of them had an arm, a leg, a shoulder. I don’t think his feet touched the ground. They moved him to a waiting police cruiser.”
Roup remembers seeing witnesses at the scene openly weeping, she said.
“It was shock and awe,” she said. “It was something that had never been seen here and it was one of our most beloved police officers.
“Charlie Attig was the kind of police officer who was a good neighbor too,” she said.
Roup said she’ll always remember what she saw that June night.
“I’ll never forget,” she said, her voice filled with emotion. “I’ll never forget.”
“You always think of him”
Troutman was officially sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1985. He is now in his 60s and an inmate in the State Correctional Institution at Graterford. Troutman’s trial was hard for Rosa and her husband, Charles Attig Sr., who passed away six years ago, to sit through, she said.
“One day we got there and he was sitting three chairs in front of us,” she said. “His girlfriend came in and he gave her a hug and a kiss. I remember just wanting to get up and shake him.”
But his sentence has been a small comfort to Rosa, who still lives in the same house in Shamokin Dam.
“He has his whole life to think about what he did,” she said. “I think that’s more of a punishment (than the death penalty).”
The support from the community — which named a portion of Routes 11-15 and a community park after Attig — was instrumental in helping her through the grieving process, she said.
“There were all kinds of signs out on the Strip,” she said. “I’d never seen anything like it. It is (easier) now,” she said. “But you always think of him, no matter what.”
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