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Hundreds Gather in Tribute to Slain Police Officer

Dek-hockey rink re-dedicated on one-year anniversary of Sluganski’s murder

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
February 06, 2024
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

The Rev. Bill Meekins Jr., lead pastor of the McKeesport Area Shared Ministry of the United Methodist Church, delivers the invocation Tuesday evening at the rededication of the city’s dek-hockey rink in memory of murdered police officer Sean Sluganski. Mayor Michael Cherepko and Sluganski’s family look on. (Tube City Almanac photo)

More than 300 people gathered at sunset Tuesday to remember murdered McKeesport police Officer Sean Sluganski.

At a ceremony attended by many current and retired law-enforcement officers, city officials and clergy re-dedicated the dek-hockey rink at Renziehausen Park in memory of Sluganski, who was fatally shot by a suspect on Feb. 6, 2023, as he and his partner, McKeesport police Officer Chuck Thomas Jr., responded to a domestic dispute in the Grandview neighborhood.

A former city man is awaiting trial on homicide charges in connection with Sluganski’s death.

A bench bearing Sluganski’s name and image also was unveiled by Thomas and McKeesport police Lt. Bob Eastman, who responded to the same call.

McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said the city wanted to honor Sluganski with an appropriate, permanent memorial, and felt renaming the dek-hockey would be appropriate, because of his love of hockey.

(Tube City Almanac photo)

Sluganski’s family, including his mother, Terri; fiance, Chelsea Cancilla; and their infant daughter, Haven attended the ceremony.

“All too often, we don’t think about the families, who are home, praying that they never have to receive the phone call that Officer Sean Sluganski’s family did, one year ago today,” Cherepko said.

“When I say that you are the most incredible people I’ve ever met in my entire life, I mean it,” he said. “We know where Sean got it from, because Sean was not just so well respected as a police officer by people in this community — he was the life of the party. He was an incredible human being that everyone wanted to be around.”

McKeesport police Chief Mark Steele said that Sluganski and Cancilla were neighbors and that he looked forward to seeing them during off-duty hours as well.

“Whenever he saw me going to work, Sean would point at me and laugh as I drove past his house,” Steele said. “That’s one of the things I miss. Not only did I lose a friend, a colleague, a co-worker, I lost a neighbor.”

Cherepko thanked Sluganski’s colleagues for carrying on their work in the aftermath of his murder, and members of surrounding police departments who covered calls in McKeesport for two weeks as city police officers grieved.

“It was a long year for our officers as they continued to push forward — it was a grind,” Cherepko said. “You move forward. You never move on, because it’s never going to be the same. But you move forward.”

He also thanked city residents for their support of McKeesport police in the aftermath of Sluganski’s death.

The invocation was delivered by the Rev. Bill Meekins Jr., lead pastor of the McKeesport Area Shared Ministry of the United Methodist Church, who noted that first-responders “cannot be partially invested in our community — they are fully invested.”

Meekins prayed that God would “pour out your blessing of comfort, pour out your blessing of hope, that you might pour out your blessing of joy and love and compassion, so that we might continue to remember the legacy that Officer Sean has given us.”

McKeesport police Officer Chuck Thomas Jr., who was wounded during the same incident in which Sluganski was killed, raises the American flag and a flag bearing a likeness of Sluganski’s badge, along with city police Lt. Bob Eastman. (Tube City Almanac photo)

After Thomas and Eastman raised a special flag bearing Sluganski’s name and badge number, the Rev. Terry O’Connor, pastor of Mary, Mother of God Parish, blessed the bench.

The flag was contributed by Nuttall Public Safety Equipment, while the bench was installed by Strifflers Family Funeral Homes and Design Monuments.

Terri Sluganski drops a dek-hockey ball for a ceremonial first face-off between McKeesport police Chief Mark Steele and retired police Chief Adam Alfer. (Tube City Almanac photo)

City police officers then joined Sluganski’s mother, Terri, at the center of the dek-hockey rink, where she dropped a ball for a ceremonial “first face-off” between Steele and South Allegheny police Chief Adam Alfer, retired McKeesport police chief.

Steele said he hopes that for years to come, visitors or people playing dek-hockey at Renzie Park will ask why the rink is named for him: “Then, when people say, ‘Who was Sean Sluganski?’ we can say, ‘one of the greatest police officers McKeesport ever had.”

Jason Togyer volunteers as editor of Tube City Almanac and executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc.

Originally published February 06, 2024.

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