Remembering the fallen; Candlelight vigil honors officers killed in line of duty

Sweet Home Police Department officials and residents joined a candlelight vigil on Thursday, May 13, to recognize the service of law enforcement officers and remember police officers who have died while doing their jobs.

The gathering was one of many held around the state as part of Police Officer Week, proclaimed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski,

During National Police Week each May, the nation pauses to recognize the services and sacrifice of U.S. law enforcement, said Community Services Specialist Gina Riley. Established in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy and Congress, National Police Week pays special tribute to those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others.

Today, some 900,000 law enforcement officers put their lives on the line for the safety and protection of others, Riley said. Recent federal statistics show that violent and property crimes are at historic lows, thanks in large measure to the dedicated service of the men and women of law enforcement.

“That protection comes at a price however,” she said. “Each year, there are approximately 16,000 assaults on law enforcement officers, resulting in nearly 60,000 injuries. Sadly, over the last decade, an average of 160 officers a year have been killed in the line of duty, and throughout U.S. history, nearly 19,000 law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Sgt. Jeff Lynn recounted the story of the only Sweet Home law enforcement officer to be killed in the line of duty.

In 1907, Mounts Story was the first mayor of Sweet Home, Lynn said. He also became the Sweet Home marshal, which was the equivalent of police chief, in 1919.

Story performed many functions for Sweet Home during that time, Lynn said. “His duties included dog control as well as taking care of the dirt streets. And if stumps were in the way, he was to blow them out.”

In 1920, at age 78, Story was attacked by two intoxicated men, who beat him to death with his own cane, Lynn said. “He died from broken ribs and head injuries with his boots and badge still on.

“Fortunately, Marshal Story is the only law enforcement officer who has died in the line of duty in Sweet Home. His name is etched into the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial.

“Part of us are thankful that no new names have been added to the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial this year, while another part mourns the 169 officers who have been lost in the past and have their names etched into the memorial.

“May the last name remain the last name on the wall.”

Police Chief Bob Burford recalled how two law enforcement officers from Linn County were killed in 2001.

“Nearly nine years ago, Sweet Home officers joined with our colleagues across the state and the nation to mourn the loss of Albany Police Officer Jason Hoerauf, killed doing the job he loved after only 10 months on the job,” said Police Chief Bob Burford. “Jason was killed while helping a stranded motorist on I-5 between Albany and Salem. During that same tragic event a State Police Trooper, Maria Mignano, was also killed and another trooper, Sgt. John Burright, was disabled for life.

“I vividly remember the solemn funeral procession from Albany to Lebanon where Jason would be laid to rest. Draped from two fire trucks hung a huge American Flag. A miles-long column of police cars, all with emergency lights operating in silent tribute, passed beneath the giant symbol of this great country.”

“The symbolism and sentiments reflected in these displays of patriotism moved even the most hardened officer to tears.”

Earlier in the week, the governor had ordered flags around the state lowered in honor of these officers, Burford said. After the funeral ended, he looked forward to arriving at work the following day and being able to raise the department’s American Flag back to full staff, in effect, getting on with our lives.

Unfortunately, the flags were not raised to full height, Burford said. “You see, Hoerauf’s funeral was on Sept. 10, 2001.

“Soon after that date, the entire nation witnessed a new sense of purpose and patriotism,” Burford said. “Flags everywhere flew, and people stopped to simply tell the soldier, the firefighter and the police officer they are doing a good job.

“It pains me to see how quickly those days of honor and patriotism seem to have passed. Once again the police officer has blended into the background of our everyday lives to be thought about only when we suddenly glance at the speedometer and temporarily take our foot from the gas.

“For 234 years our men and women in uniform, whether it be military, or police, federal, state and local, have made the ultimate sacrifice under the banner of our great flag. Let us tonight honor each of them and always make certain that they did not die in vain.”

Alex Paul, a reporter for the Albany Democrat Herald, former publisher of The New Era and 25-year resident of the Sweet Home area, also praised the work of Sweet Home law enforcement, the community and the city government, recognizing the impact of law enforcement officers as members of the community.

Sweet Home High School students Sarah Wyatt and Randi Muir sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and trumpeter Jed Stults played “Taps.”

SHHS students and Peer Court volunteers Kayla Froman and Britney Price led the Pledge of Allegiance.

At the end, Jed Stults played “Taps.”

Rick Ellingson, pastor at Cornerstone Fellowship, provided the benediction.