Utah Cop Killed In Iraq War E-mail
Written by Cynthia Brown   
At the time of his death, he was the oldest soldier to die in the conflict. "James died defending the freedom that he so cherished," according to a statement released by the family shortly after they had been informed of Jim's death. "Jim was a loyal American and believed strongly in the cause for which he fought." Jim's sister Julie said their family has been devastated by the loss. "Jim was a remarkable person," she said. "I think when people think about Marines and cops they think about tough, macho guys. But Jim wasn't like that. He read poetry and he listened to classical music. He was just an extraordinary human being." His family reflects the diversity of the United States. Jim's mother is British, and his wife, whose father is also a police officer, is Japanese. His interest in his wife's language and culture lead him to learn Japanese, which he spoke and wrote fluently. Fellow officers were hit hard by the news of their colleague's death. "We're having a rough time," said Sgt. David Hoffman, Cawley's supervisor in the Gang Unit and SWAT team, just days after learning about his friend's death.

The man everyone called "Jimbo" served in the Marine Corps for 12 years before becoming a reservist. He became a Salt Lake City Police Officer in 1997 after graduating from the academy with top honors. It only took him a year to become a fixture on the department's Gang Unit and SWAT team. But he was called back to active duty during the Winter Olympics as part of a beefed-up security force designed to prevent terrorist strikes during the games. In February of this year, Cawley's company was rolled into the Marine Expeditionary Force, which was one of the first front line units to lead the charge towards Baghdad. During the campaign, Cawley wrote a letter to his young son Cecil, describing how he was also left behind when his Dad went off to war. "When I was a little boy of six years old, my Dad, your Grandpa Cawley, was sent to Vietnam during the war there," Jim Cawley wrote his young son. "I remember how much I missed him. But being a child, I didn't realize how hard it must have been on him too." Sgt. Hoffman said Jim Cawley was a tactical genius. "He was always working on something. He developed our climbing cadre and he worked out a plan for positive breaching using small amounts of explosives so we could get inside. His military service gave him a lot of skills that he was always willing to share with us." Bruce Evans, a Salt Lake cop who worked with Jim on the Gang Unit and the SWAT team, couldn't agree more. "He was just an awesome person," Evans said. "When you got called to a fight or any kind of hot call, there's always a group of officers you want with you. Jim Cawley was at the top of that list." Evans said Jim was one of the best instructors he ever had. "He could take the most boring subject and make it interesting," Evans noted. "Every time he taught, I learned something. But he was always humble about his knowledge. He never acted like he was much smarter than the rest of us, even though he was."

His tactical skills were legendary, both among his colleagues at the Salt Lake City P.D. and the Marine Corps. When the news of his death spread throughout the city, everyone had the same reaction. "We knew it had to be a mistake," Bruce Evans said. "We all said there's no way they got Jim Cawley. He's way too good at tactics." Jim Cawley was also known for his great sense of humor. His reserve unit was made up of people from Utah and Nevada and he never tired of making jokes about the clash of cultures between the Mormon-dominated group from Utah and the "rough around the edges" group from Nevada. "He used to call them the 'Saints and Sinners," Hoffman said. "He kept us all in stitches." Bruce Evans said Jim Cawley was one of the funniest people he ever knew. "He had crazy names for everyone," he said. "He would sing these crazy songs if they reminded him of you. He kept us laughing all the time."

Along with his tactical skills, everyone we spoke with remarked on Jim's remarkable enthusiasm and focus. Rob Joseph, a former Salt Lake officer who went through the academy with Jim remembered him this way: "He was a very focused and directed individual. He was a very religious man. He definitely had a plan, and being in law enforcement was part of that plan. He never lost his enthusiasm for police work, and that's not easy on this job because of what we see every day. He believed in the Constitution and defending those who couldn't protect themselves. He was always focused on protecting the little guy." Tyrone Farillas, a detective with the Gang Unit, got to know him when he attended SWAT school. Cawley was the PT instructor. "He would be really hard on us," Det. Farillas remembered. "He would work us until we couldn't work any more. But he was always fair, and he always had a big smile on his face, always."

Mark Schuman was Jim's partner, and the two men worked the street together for many years. Mark had this to say about Jim Cawley: "There was never a time I didn't have complete trust in him. It was such a good feeling to have him around. You always felt that whatever happened, it would be okay, and if it wasn't, you would be there together." Officer Reuban Torres was also a good friend of Jim's. "I'm a former Marine, and the minute I met Jim, we clicked. "He motivated me in so many ways - mostly he inspired me to be a better person. "There's 250,000 soldiers over there, and for us to lose Jimbo is a loss I can't describe."

Jim Cawley's body was brought home to Utah on April 7. The tarmac was crowded with his fellow officers and his family members. His fellow SWAT team members served as pallbearers and removed his body from the airplane for his final trip home. The Salt Lake P.D. has had 11 officers called up to serve in the second Gulf War. After losing Jim Cawley, everyone hopes and prays they won't lose any more. But whatever happens in the uncertain days ahead, Jim Cawley will be missed forever. "We will never find anyone who could fill his shoes," said Sgt. Dave Hoffman. "There was only one and there will always only be one Jim Cawley."

A trust fund has been set up for Jim's family. If you would like to contribute, make your check out to: Police Mutual Aid Association and send it to Detective Jay Rhodes, Salt Lake City Police Department, 315 East 200 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84111.

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