The Burbank Police Department had not lost an officer in the line of duty by gunfire for more than eighty-three years. On the evening of November 15, that all changed. Veteran Officer Gregory Campbell had stopped a vehicle, without license plates, containing two males. The area where the stop was made was well known for drug trafficking and other criminal activity, so Campbell wisely called for backup.
The first officer to respond was 26 year old Matthew Pavelka, who had been in the field as a police officer for just ten months. When Campbell and Pavelka approached the suspect vehicle and ordered the two male subjects to exit the vehicle, they both alighted firing automatic weapons. Both Campbell and Pavelka were wounded several times, but in the ensuing exchange of gunfire, the officers mortally wounded one of the gunmen. The other suspect escaped on foot.
Both of the wounded officers were transported to a local hospital, where Officer Pavelka died during surgery and Officer Campbell was treated and remained in critical but stable condition.
On Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2003, the suspect who fled was taken into custody.
Matthew Pavelka was remembered by more than one of his fellow officers as a charming, light-hearted 26-year-old, with a crown of spiky orange hair, who loved being a cop.
The Matthew Pavelka endowment fund was established after Officer Matthew Pavelka was tragically murdered on November 15, 2003. In that one instance of brutal gun violence, an entire community was devastated. Less than 24 hours after the incident, our community’s unbelievable generosity began to pour in. The businesses and residents of Burbank, and the surrounding communities’ kindness and support was overwhelming.
The Pavelka Family graciously requested the fund be used to promote the building of future leaders. There was never a question as to the career path that Officer Matthew Pavelka would follow. After high school, he joined the Air Force, only because he was too young to enroll in a police academy. He served for five years as a military policeman, received an associate of arts degree in criminal justice, and was intent on further pursuing his education in his chosen field.
One of the goals of the Burbank Police Foundation is to provide an award for high school seniors who have demonstrated outstanding effort to pursue a vocational goal, to motivate students to dedicate themselves more thoroughly and responsibly to their education or training and encourage students to strive for excellence and distinction in whatever they undertake. This year, as we remember the 15th anniversary of one of the most tragic days in Burbank, each recipient will receive a $1,500 scholarship.