ST. LOUIS — Two detectives were driving through south St. Louis in 1985 when they saw smoke from a house on Iowa Avenue. Their work on the bomb and arson squad did not usually include fires still burning, so they had no protective gear when they crawled in on their hands and knees, following the sound of someone gasping for air.
“We had to back out twice, the smoke was so thick,” now-retired St. Louis police Sgt. Ward Griggs recalls. “But on the third time, I got hold of a leg. Steve and I pulled the guy out.”
The officer by Griggs’ side was Steve W. Alsup. The two would receive a community Medal of Valor for rescuing the 70-year-old victim. Both rose through the ranks, but occasionally reconnected.
“He was there when you needed him,” Griggs said. “When I worked with Steve, I didn’t have to worry about him keeping his end of the job up.”
Sgt. Alsup died Saturday (Nov. 5, 2011) when his vehicle ran off Highway 49 in Iron County and struck a tree, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol, which is still investigating. He was 61.
Sgt. Alsup, a St. Louis native, served with the Army’s 173rd Airborne unit in Vietnam, earning a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Air Medal. He joined the St. Louis police in October 1971, was promoted to sergeant in 1991 and retired in 2005. He received five chief’s letters of commendation and a meritorious service citation. He was named first district officer of the year in 1988.
“He was just a decent, good policeman,” said retired Sgt. Bill Murphy, who worked with Sgt. Alsup through most of the 1970s.
His neighbors called him “Officer Friendly,” said his daughter, Kellie Abercrombie, who remembers him as a defuser of difficult situations.
“My dad was our constant teacher and turned any situation into a learning experience for us,” she said. “He was nurturing, and most of all, he always made me laugh.”
After Sophie Marie Barrera was killed in a car bombing in 1980, Sgt. Alsup and Bill McGarvey, of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, got a tip that led to Dr. Glennon Engleman, a dentist. Engleman eventually was convicted of killing her and four others, some in schemes involving women he groomed to marry certain men to kill for life insurance.
Griggs recalls that Sgt. Alsup “was pretty proud of it, because they cleared a lot of murders with that arrest.”
A memorial visitation will be held today from 4 to 9 p.m. at the St. Louis Police Association Hall, 3710 Hampton Avenue. The funeral is private.
In addition to his daughter, among the survivors are his wife of 41 years, Linda M. Alsup; another daughter, Stacy Boitano; and five grandchildren.
Memorial contributions may be made to BackStoppers.
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