Department: Missoula Police Department Rank: Patrolman Age: 32 Tour of Duty: 3 years End of Watch: November 5, 1982 Cause of Death: Vehicle Crash
On the morning of Friday, November 5, 1982 Officer Stephen LePiane was killed when his patrol car was hit broadside by a vehicle at the intersection of West Broadway and Mullan Rd. The driver of that vehicle, James Cowan of Polson, was charged with negligent homicide following the accident.
LePiane and Officer Al Baker were headed west on Broadway to back another officer, who was out on a traffic stop. As Baker drove throught the intersection first he noticed Cowan's vehicle, a 1972 Oldsmobile moving towards that intersection at a high rate of speed. Cowan ran the eastbound stop sign and hit LePiane's vehicle broadside. The force of the impact threw LePiane from the vehicle. He was pronounced dead shortly after that at St. Patrick's Hospital.
Stephen LePiane, born January 28, 1950, was born and raised in Missoula. He attended Franklin Grade School and graduated from Hellgate High School in 1968. At Hellgate he was a member of the football team and wrestled. He married Sally Ann Jones on September 19, 1982. He was survived by his wife and two sons from a previous marriage, Stephen A. and Christopher Todd; his father Giulio LePiane of Missoula; two sisters; and his brother, Clifford, who was also a Missoula police officer.
Almost two hundred law enforcement officers and firefighters honored LePiane at his funeral. More than forty law enforcement vehicles from inside and outside of Missoula County took part in the funeral procession. Doug Chase, then a Missoula Police Captain, recited a message to LePiane's two sons. Chase said, "In your memories please keep at the forefront that your dad served nobley, honorably, honestly and with an extra measure of compassion and care. Those are the traits of a good cop - a darn good cop - he was that kind of cop. He will be remembered."
Stephen LePiane was always optimistic and ready for the next challenge. According to Doug Chase, "a smile a yardstick wide and an impish gleam in his eyes were two of his trademarks well remembered."Stephen held an important notion of being not only a good cop, but also a good person to the public eye.
One of LePiane's friends, Gerald Shaw, of the Edmonton Police Department left these words about Stephen LePiane, "Words cannot express the loss of a fellow police officer. Steve was a friend and a good officer and he gave his life to a job he loved."Stephen LePiane's life was taken prematurely, but he will always be remembered in our hearts and minds.