A drizzling rain fell outside as some three dozen law enforcement officers, first responders, their families and community friends gathered in candlelight vigil at the Hempstead County Law Enforcement Center here Wednesday night to remember the fallen on Peace Officers' Memorial Day.
Somber moments of reflection were lightened by fond memories of friends and fellow peace officers during the ceremony.
Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton recalled Deputy Sergeant Nashawn M. Garland, a 16-year veteran who passed away in March, 2011. Singleton recalled Garland's first day on the job with training officer Brian Russell.
“Brian hands the keys to Shawn and tells him, 'Let's ride.' Big mistake,” Singleton noted. “They get in the car, pull out of the sheriff's department, start down the street, and Shawn sees a girl he knows; he takes both hands off the wheel, leans out of the window and waves both hands.
“They make the block and Shawn gets his first trip to Chief Ross' office,” he added. “Shawn's explanation... working on his public relations skills.”
Singleton recalled how Garland was a calming influence in any situation and other deputies referred to him as Dr. Shawn.
“When Shawn was dispatched to a call, he would get into his Dr. Phil mode, and he could actually talk people into going to jail without having to raise his voice,” Singleton recalled. “Some of them would actually volunteer to drive.”
But, it was the presentation of daughter Lacey Jo Singleton's speech, which brought tears to the eyes of everyone present with her definition of a hero, recalling the late Hope Police Department Sergeant David D. J. Johnson.
“Sergeant Johnson remained dedicated to his profession and when he got sick, another policeman, Frog (Officer Daniel Oller) gave D.J. one of his kidneys,” sheriff Singleton read. “After they got out of the hospital, they went back to work protecting all of us. When he got sick again he fought and fought until he was called home to be a policeman in heaven to watch over my dad, Frog, and my brother, as they get up and go to work not knowing if they will come back home at the end of their shift.”
Hope Police Chief J. R. Wilson recalled his early patrol years as an officer of the Dallas Police Department.
“The morning of Jan. 23, 1988, I was on duty driving west on Grand Avenue just south of downtown Dallas, Texas, when an 'assist officer' call was announced over the radio,” Wilson said. “An officer was in distress in the downtown area. As I began to run 'code' to the call, the dispatcher came over the radio and asked all officers to pray for our brother who had just fallen.
“As I arrived on the scene, I was shocked to discover that the officer killed was my academy classmate John Glen Chase, 23 years of age,” he added.
Page 2 of 2 - Wilson said his friend had been killed in the course of a routine traffic stop after a mentally ill man approached him, and the officer was disarmed and shot with his service weapon.
“This was my first encounter with a close friend being killed in this job, buut it would not be my last,” Wilson said. “During my 22 year career, 16 officers were killed at departments where I worked.”
Wilson also honored the memory of officer Johnson.
“Though his death was not considered in a line of duty death and his name will never be embossed on the walls in Washington, D.C., he is a man who will always be remembered by this department as one who gave his life for the citizens of Hope, Arkansas,” he said.
Singleton and Wilson recalled the two local officers who have been killed in the line of duty, sheriff's deputy William Madison Goff, killed by gunfire on Nov. 5, 1926, and police officer John Thompson Hamilton, killed by gunfire on Jan. 22, 1908.
Hope Vice Mayor Steve Montgomery read a memorial proclamation by Mayor Dennis Ramsey designating May 15 as Peace Officers' Memorial Day in Hope, and Eighth Judicial District-North Prosecuting Attorney Christi McQueen recalled the service of Arkansas State Police Corporal Pete Penney, who was wounded by gunfire in the line of duty in March, 2012.