05/06/09 — Ceremony honors fallen officers

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Ceremony honors fallen officers

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on May 6, 2009 1:46 PM

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The family of fallen Wayne County Sheriff's Captain Jerry Best say a tearful prayer during the Law Enforcement Memorial Service today at Wayne Community College. From left are Captain Best's wife, Donna Best; his mother, Daisy Best; and his sister, Paulette Suggs.

Law enforcement gathered at Wayne Community College today to honor Wayne County officers who died in the line of duty.

Although violent deaths often get the most media attention, Goldsboro police Chief Tim Bell said statistics show a stark truth: The patrol car is often the most dangerous thing to a law enforcement officer.

"It's sad to say that we're killing ourselves (in automobile accidents)," Bell said.

But the police chief noted that most officers had received driving training in the past few months.

"We've done pretty good, driving isn't a problem -- it's what's up here," the chief said, pointing to his head. "It's what going on up here between those two ears that's the problem."

The ceremony honored 10 officers, including a newly added Pikeville constable who had previously been unknown to the Law Enforcement Memorial Service. Zeb Lancaster died in 1900 after being shot.

"One of the things that the good Lord gave us was time to heal wounds," Bell said. "Even though we have time on our side, we want to come here every year to pay our respects."

Bell noted that there were 133 deaths of police officers in the United States in 2008.

Of those 133, 71 died in traffic-related incidents, including 44 automobile crashes, the chief said.

Pikeville Chief Pascal Tucker recognized Constable Lancaster, who was killed in 1900 while trying to make an arrest on a domestic-related charge.

Mount Olive Police Chief Ralph Schroeder noted that death isn't an officer's only fear: 56,000 officers are assaulted in 2008, causing 16,000 injuries, he said.

"We should always give attention to our peacemakers and honor them," Schroeder said.

Fremont Chief Ron Rawlings mentioned Russell "Rusty" Ray Herring, who died earlier this year after just four months with the Fremont Police Department.

Rawlings called Herring a "very sharp individual, a very good officer."

The Fremont chief said he had "been on too many calls where you hear 'Officer down,'" he said. Rawlings said he felt the "officer down" feeling when he got the call about Herring's death, which is still awaiting a final ruling on cause.

Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders said that because of the danger involved in police work, deaths are "inevitable."

"I can only pray that we never have to add another name," Winders said. "But it's inevitable. Someday another name will be added. It causes us to pray a little more often, and it causes us to hug our families a little tighter."