Community remembers Officer Jason West
Cleveland Heights wasn’t just his beat—Cleveland Heights Police Officer Jason West had purchased a house in the city. He had always wanted to be a police officer, and protecting and serving the city of Cleveland Heights was something that he did willingly every day he put on his uniform. A fellow officer commented: “Even at shift change, if there was a late call, he’d take it. He was always willing to go the extra mile. He just loved the job.”
On May 26, 2007, Officer West responded to one more call, a disturbance call on Altamont Avenue. It was a routine call that would sadly cost him his life. He was shot while getting out of his patrol car.
News of his death spread, and shock, sadness and anger paralyzed the community. It had been nearly 60 years since an officer had died in the line of duty in Cleveland Heights. As weeks passed, though, the sense of loss led to a desire to make sure that Officer West was always remembered, and his memory honored.
Residents, business owners and fellow officers came together and established the Officer Jason D. West Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded each year to one or more graduating seniors from the Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Program at Cleveland Heights High School. Since 2008, the committee has awarded 13 scholarships.
Officer West believed in the importance of mentoring young people. Through the scholarship, his legacy continues to impact the lives of young men and women.
In 2012, Stedman Smith received the scholarship. After graduation, Smith postponed college and entered basic training for the U.S. Army, followed by advanced training in the National Guard. He then served in Afghanistan for a year. When Smith returned home, he contacted the scholarship committee to say that he was applying to the Cleveland Heights Police Academy, and asked if he could use his award for his tuition. Out of more than 150 applicants, Smith was one of only 20 to be accepted into the police academy.
Betsey Bell, scholarship committee co-chair, commented, “Not only did the scholarship committee give Stedman his initial award, but we were able to pay for the entire cost of attending the Police Academy. This was our way of honoring Jason. And I love the way we chose, because it keeps giving back every single year, and every year we’re educating people about him, who he was, and why we’re doing this.”
As the 10th anniversary of Officer West’s death approaches, the scholarship committee is planning its annual Mega Raffle Fundraiser, featuring prizes donated by local businesses. This year, the event will be held on Sunday, May 21, 5–8 p.m., at the Tavern Company, 2299 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. It is the committee’s only fundraising event.
Raffle tickets are $2 and can be purchased at Tavern Company the day of the event. All proceeds go directly to the scholarship fund. Contributions can also be sent to The Officer Jason D. West Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o The Treasurer’s Office, CH-UH City School District, 2155 Miramar Blvd., University Heights, Ohio, 44118. (Checks should be made payable to “Cleveland Heights – University Heights City School District". Be sure to note “Jason West Scholarship” on the memo line.)
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/jasonwestscholarship.
Lita Gonzalez has lived in Cleveland Heights since 1995. She is recently retired, and an avid volunteer.