HARRISONBURG — Not many days go by that Sandy Hottle and her co-workers at L&S Diner don’t think about what happened to Harrisonburg Police Sgt. Manuel Trenary.
Details of his murder are prominently displayed on the diner’s menu.
“Once you’ve become a regular, you know the story,” said Hottle, who has worked at the diner for 26 years.
Tuesday marked the 60th anniversary of Trenary’s slaying.
The 50-year-old was on foot patrol in the early-morning hours of Oct. 8, 1959, when he noticed a back door at the L&S Diner on North Liberty Street was open.
The 28-year veteran of the Harrisonburg Police Department went in to investigate. It’s believed he surprised a burglar inside the diner and exchanged gunfire with the suspect.
Trenary was struck by two .25-caliber slugs in his chest. His killer has never been caught.
Trenary became the first and only Harrisonburg police officer killed in the line of duty.
As the diner’s tribute Tuesday, part of the proceeds of its sales will be given to the Manuel W. Trenary Lodge No. 13, the Harrisonburg chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police. Also as fundraiser for the FOP, the diner sold T-shirts honoring the late officer.
Frank Earman, a retired Rockingham County sheriff’s deputy, serves as the president of the local FOP.
He said Trenary’s murder was something officers were always aware of.
“Anything can happen,” he said. “It’s in the back of your mind that something could go sideways.”
In 2013, a portion of the Erickson Avenue-Stone Spring Road connector in Harrisonburg was dedicated as the Manuel Trenary Memorial Highway.
HPD Capt. Tom Hoover said the investigation in Trenary’s murder remains cold, but every once in a while investigators get a new lead.
He said investigators don’t have much to work with since there were limited forensics capabilities decades ago.
Over the years, he said, he has given polygraph tests to two suspects, but no arrests were made.
He said the department is working on the theory that the suspect is more than likely dead.
While none of the officers with HPD knew Trenary, Hoover said, the plaque in the Public Safety Building’s lobby dedicated to the fallen hero is a reminder of the dangers officers face daily.
He said he gets an alert almost daily that an officer was killed in the line of duty somewhere in the country.
“It’s a dangerous place … a dangerous world,” Hoover said.