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African-American Officer Honored With Headstone 96 Years Later

By Michael Abeyta

DENVER (CBS4) - Sandwiched between the hustle and bustle of modern downtown Denver and the fury of Commerce City's refineries is a place where Colorado's tallest peaks watch over those for whom they are named.

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Mt. Evans (credit: CBS)
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Headstone for John Evans (credit: CBS)

This is where the wind comes to pay homage to our state's fallen heroes like John Evans and Clara Brown.

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Headstone for Clara Brown. (credit: CBS)

Riverside Cemetery is a place lost to time, where you can come to bear witness to history.

On Saturday, Denver Police came here to revisit their own history.

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(credit: CBS)

Willie O. Steam was the first African-American police officer killed in Denver.

He died on Feb. 19 1921, and is buried at Denver's Riverside Cemetery, but he was never given a headstone.

Nearly one hundred years later on Saturday, he finally got it.

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Headstone for fallen Denver Police Officer Willie O. Steam. (credit: CBS)

"So much of African American history over time has been ignored, covered up or not honored at all," said Terry Nelson, a special collection and community resource manager for the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library. "Here is an incident and experience for a man to be finally honored for his work."

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(credit: CBS)

While not every injustice in our state's history could be reversed Saturday, at least one injustice from nearly a century ago has been rectified.

"Some places in our history, in our city, they are beginning to honor what should have been honored many years ago," said Nelson.

Michael Abeyta is a 4th generation Coloradan and a Multimedia Journalist for CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 5 & 6. He is on Twitter! Follow him @AbeytaCBS4.

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