The Andersen Springs Community Association in Chandler dedicated a small plaque honoring fallen Chandler police officer Robert Nielsen on Saturday, exactly two years after the 25-year-old officer died in the line of duty.
Mounted in a cement marker on the northwest corner of Chandler Boulevard and Pennington Drive, the 10-by-12-inch plaque carries a simple message: "In loving memory of Robert Joseph Nielsen."
It marks the spot where Nielsen’s patrol car came to rest after being struck by a motorist while responding to a car crash call on June 12, 2002.
Homeowners association community manager Julia Baltz said that memorials sprang up following the crash, but some of the items left at the makeshift memorial were getting damaged.
So the HOA’s board decided to place a marker on the spot that will withstand the elements.
"We wanted to put something permanent," Baltz said.
Authorities said Nielsen was driving about 75 mph in a 45-mph zone without lights or siren on Chandler Boulevard about 1:50 p.m. when a Mitsubishi sports car driven by 72-year-old Nina Faye Wilson of Tempe turned left into his cruiser. The car spun about 20 feet after hitting a light pole.
Within seconds, fuel covered the ground and the car burst into flames with Nielsen trapped inside. Wilson was not cited.
A Chandler police spokesman said the department appreciates the memorial to Nielsen.
"By constructing a permanent plaque in his honor, the community has once again shown their appreciation for officer Nielsen’s ultimate sacrifice," detective Robert Krautheim said. "This lasting memorial will be a continuous reminder for all generations."