Craig and Alisha Church were married nearly 20 years and have four children. Alisha Church, 44, of Glendale died on May 2 when she was hit by a car while jogging. (Source: Church family photo)
GLENDALE, AZ (CBS5) -
The Phoenix Police Department is an agency that has learned to cope with tragedy. In the past 14 years, 12 officers have died in the line of duty.
There are support systems in place to assist the surviving members of those officer's families.
The loss is equally tragic when a law enforcement officer loses a spouse.
Alisha Church, 44, of Glendale died on May 2 when she was hit by a car while jogging. Her husband, Craig Church, is a Phoenix police sergeant who is part of the Major Offender Unit.
"Everyone gasps when the garage door opens and the car's there. 'Oh mom's home.' Mom's not home. Mom's not coming home," said Craig Church.
Alisha Church leaves behind her husband of nearly 20 years and four children, ages 18, 15, 11 and 9.
Craig Church now takes on his toughest assignment yet.
"I've seen this in my career. It's always been someone else," he said. "It's incredible to realize how quickly a knock on your door just turns everything upside down."
After 25 years on the force, Craig Church has faced danger and come out stronger because of it. He was shot in an ambush in 1992, taking nearly a year to recover.
He said Alisha Church was always careful to realize and prepare for the dangers of his job.
"You're the guy who always gets hurt. You got shot. You got run over. Broke your neck in a biking accident. She goes, you're the one who's gonna fall apart," Craig Church said.
Alisha Church worked 15 years as an audiologist for the Deer Valley School District. She was an accomplished runner, but swimming was her lifelong passion. She was very active in the swim community as an official and a coach, a talent she passed on to her kids.
Now, Craig Church is forced to fill the incredible void his wife leaves behind.
"It boggles my mind. Now I'm doing what I can looking through a schedule that has times and an initial and I'm like, who goes here, who goes where," Craig Church said.
It's uncharted territory for the sergeant and his colleagues in the Phoenix Police Department because when it's an officer who dies, everyone knows their roles.
"They take charge, they know what to do. There's mechanisms in place to move forward. When it's the other half of an officer everyone just kind of stops. They don't know how to proceed," Craig Church said.
He said both the department and the local swim community have helped out enormously. But the hard part is just now beginning: Picking up where his wife left off with their kids.
"There's a lot of disbelief. There's this severance that she's not coming back," Craig Church said.
Friends of the family have set up a fundraising site to assist the family. You can find that link HERE.
Donations can also be made at Comerica Bank, to the "Alisha Church Memorial Fund."
Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
Tuesday, July 22 2014 10:00 PM EDT2014-07-23 02:00:37 GMT
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