“By the grace of God,” Flagler Sheriff Rick Staly said at the annual ceremony in memory of fallen law enforcement officers Monday evening in Bunnell, “the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office has not lost an officer in the line of duty for 14 years, but we have felt the pain of each and every loss across the nation.”
Staly himself has been seeing that pain firsthand: a few weeks ago he was in Gilchrist County for the funeral of sheriff’s deputies Taylor Lindsey and Noel Ramirez who were gunned down as they ate lunch. Their assassin then went to his car and shot himself.
Today Staly is in Highlands County for another such funeral. Just last week, on May 6, William Gentry Jr., a sheriff’s deputy in Highlands, had responded to an animal abuse call at a property where a person’s car was killed by a neighbor with a pellet gun. That neighbor was a convicted felon. As Gentry stood at the front door of the suspect, the 69-year-old suspect shot him in the head. Gentry died the next day. He’d served the agency nine years.
“Those that are gone created a clear pathway for us to continue on,” Sheriff’s Chaplain Juan Schembri said to open the ceremony, before Sgt. Kenny Goncalves sang “God Bless America.” “We must never waver from that path of freedom and democracy. We must take their memories, take their dreams, and walk forward shouldering the cause of freedom, carrying it high and proud as they did, and now we must walk forward for them and for our children.”
The annual ceremony would have normally started in the plaza in front of the Flagler County Courthouse, with a silent walk, blue candles lit, along State Road 100, to the sheriff’s Operations Center. Last year Staly walked with a riderless horse, symbolizing the fallen. Rainy weather preempted that segment of the ceremony. It was all moved indoors at the operations center, into a conference room.
“We’ve had to kind of improvise,” Staly said. It had begun with the entry of Coastal Florida Police and Fire Pipe Band, a dozen pipes and drums booming under in the low-ceilinged room. Sounds usually made for the open-skied expanses of cemeteries and forlorn battlefields bounced against the walls like a dozen train horns blaring in a tunnel. But the enveloping effect amplified the gravity of the occasion, as if underscoring the undeniability of grief.
Every year around this day–May 15 has been Peace Officer Memorial Day since Congress designated it so in 1962–law enforcement agencies hold memorials around the country for fallen officers and National Police Week unfolds in Washington.
Last year there were 135 line-of-duty deaths, 46 of them from gunfire, 28 from car crashes, 15 from heart attacks–the top three causes year after year, with assaults, drownings, motorcycle crashes or getting struck by other vehicles causing additional deaths. Nine were from Florida. So far this year 53 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty, 27 of them by gunfire, 12 from car crashes. Florida has seen four officers killed, three of them by gunfire.
“We stand in solidarity with their loved ones and honor all those who have made the ultimate sacrifices to serve and protect their community,” Staly said during his remarks to the audience. “Our nation recognizes them as brave law enforcement officers, and rightly so. But they were also fathers, mothers, loving spouses, loyal sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and the greatest of friends.”
He continued: “Tonight in Flagler County and this week around the nation they are honored by those who knew them, loved them and miss them terribly. To the friends and family of the fallen that are here with us tonight, I say to you, You are not alone. We stand with you, we mourn with you, and we remember with you.”
He then solemnly read the names of the fallen as roses were placed by the makeshift wreath (before the roses would be moved outside by the actual memorial): Sheriff Perry Hall in 1927, deputy George Durrance in 1927, Sheriff Homer Brooks in 1965, deputy Chuck Sease in 2003 and Sgt. Frank Celico in 2011.
“Let us remember all that they did and all that they stood for. We were privileged to have their service, their protection, their friendship, and their love. Tonight let us remember their valor, their service, their humor and their grace.”
The sheriff also dedicated the Tactical Training and Fitness Center after Sheriff Brooks, a Flagler County native and World War II veteran and Bunnell police chief before being elected sheriff in 1957 and serving three terms. Diane Yelvington, Brooks’s niece, said he would feel “very honored” who loved Flagler and “loved serving Flagler County, so this is quite an honor for him and our family and we feel greatly moved by this.”
A few days ago, Staly had renamed the county jail after Sheriff Perry Hall. Monday evening, he said he’d run out of buildings to name after fallen sheriffs–or of fallen sheriffs. Staly–who was shot in the line of duty early in his career–noted wryly that he preferred not to become one with them.
Go blue team not all Boyz in blue are corrupt majority are good
Just the truth says
To all Officers around the country, thank you for all you do to keep us safe. You are always in my prayers and thoughts.
Why don’t I see deputy delarosby??? He was a wonderful deputy Who Loved serving Flagler County and you can’t even honor him disgusting
Let us not forget about the innocent people who have died at the hands of law enforcement. Just because some wear badges, doesn’t mean they should. If a officer can at all costs avoid killing a citizen, they should, and they should be required to prove that they had no other options before shooting or be held accountable. All lives matter, not just the blue.
@ anonymous if they were following the law and listening to the officers commands then there wouldn’t be an issue but you have a lot of punks out there who showed no respect for law enforcement or First Responders or firefighters but yet when they need help they know who to call.
Anonymous, you have not walked in our shoes. You have no clue!
I try very hard to have faith in my fellow man, but around here that’s just too much to ask for. What incredibly bad taste to dishonor the memories of police officers killed in the line of duty by making ridiculous remarks; but hey! Everyone is entitled to an opinion…There’s plenty of websites you can go to trash cops during Police Memorial Week. So glad I’m retired….
Hey Anonymous…. when you walk five minutes in my boots….. then you can talk shit.
Weak defense Jenn! Your one of those people that take the word of cops who break the law to enforce the law. Sometimes their efforts are worse then the actual violation the person is suspected of doing. You can’t be that closed minded to believe its okay to kill someone because they don’t comply. Go talk to our local ex soldiers and ask them about their use of force policy’s and maybe you’d understand. But I’m sure you were brainwashed at an early age to believe the only thing separating white people from being wiped off the face of the earth by minorities is the police and your right to own guns. What a joke. Stop the cop worship. If they did the job for free than I would understand all of this.
Jenn–We have seen many, many times that innocent people were shot by cops, some being shot in the back! Disobeying a command does not warrant someone being shot to death! If a cop is a coward then he/she doesn’t need to be a cop. If there is no other option and a cops life is threatened then yes they should do what they need to do to protect their own life. However, in many cases there have been people with no weapons shot to death and this is unacceptable. There are cops out there that are punks too and when they exercise poor judgment there is always an internal investigation, which is absurd. And as for your lame comment about following the law—it has been shown and proven there are many officers and first responder’s who have not and do not follow the law—-but they are never shot to death, and rarely prosecuted, and in many cases not even fired! Laws need to be changed where citizens cannot be shot unless a officer can do nothing else to protect his own life.
@The usual chin music
and old farts tooting their own horns about who they used to be.
I thank my fellow Americans for my VA hospital, and I spend my FRS high risk retirement check right here in the state where I earned it.
If anyone wants to honor fallen LEOs – they can do something that really matters: Elect honest governments and quit pretending that government, which is supposed to serve everyone and the common good, is the same thing as a business. Goddamn it – if horses had wheels they would be wagons. Quit electing crooked liars like Jeb and crooked ricky who weep for the fallen while robbing the pensions of those they pretend to salute.
Have a nice day.
@anonymous first of all having been a first responder for many years putting my life on the line to save people which I enjoyed doing so put yourself in my shoes you have no idea how many times I’ve seen people disrespect officers firemen and First Responders because they are little punks I don’t understand why you’re defending idiots who cannot respect and follow the law and commands from an officer it’s called respect and as far as your comment is being shot in the back who you referring to Trayvon give me a break educate yourself.
Just remember when you need help don’t pick up the phone and call the police or First Responders or the fire department you’re big and bad and did you redo it all then handle it yourself. You show no respect for any of them so like I said you don’t need them handle it yourself and see how you make out.
POGO—I echo your words!
The risk comes with the job of being a cop. Everyone knows that law enforcement officers risk their lives to do their jobs, and they too know this when the choose the profession. Soldiers too know of the dangers and don’t have to have a pat on the back every time they turn around. It is time to man up. Soldiers don’t just shoot to kill like many cops have done. It is time that cops get better training and better screened before being hired. There is no excuse for some of what this country has witnessed over the past several years of innocent people being murdered by cops that panic.
Jenn-If we had the authority of law enforcement I am sure we could handle our own matters and probably much better than many law enforcement officers have handled situations. Look at FCSO–nothing but a but of ass kissers and kids and a Sheriff that is a camera hound. There have been some legit comments made on here that resonate with me. The cops can’t be violent and expect violence to cease. Too many law suits and innocent people have died senselessly–both blue and civilians. The reason law enforcement gets such a high retirement is because of the risk of the job. They are paid well, and have a healthy retirement. It is time that law enforcement took the approach of what they can do to make our country better. Force is not he answer!