Three Fallen Officers Honored at Memorial Ceremony
In the days following his death, the family of Kentucky State Police Trooper Eric Chrisman found notes on his desk that Eric wrote outlining his commitment in the line of duty.
“I will protect those who need protection, serve those in need, show compassion, stand up to the bully, be the best I can at everything, never give less than my all,” Chrisman’s father, Randy Chrisman read during the ceremony. “My God is first, family second, and everyone is family.”
During the 18th annual Kentucky Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony, the elder Chrisman shared with the crowd how those words embodied his son, who was killed June 23, 2015, in a car wreck just six months after beginning his law enforcement career. He was 23.
Kentucky celebrated a year without any line of duty deaths in 2016. This year’s ceremony honored three peace officers who died in previous years, but whose names only recently were added to the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial.
Versailles Police Officer George Freeman, end of watch: June 17, 1883; Oldham County Police Officer Charles D. Howley, end of watch: May 14, 2014; and Bell County Sheriff’s Deputy Frank Bowman, end of watch: Aug. 6, 1932, were honored among their family, friends and comrades.
Chrisman culminated the event’s speakers with his emotional testimony about his son’s commitment and devotion to serving the commonwealth. That same commitment to service among the commonwealth’s law enforcement was recognized by both Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton and Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley.
“Nearly every day, we still hear stories of courage and selflessness, grit and determination, commitment and giving,” Tilley said. “Even more inspiring are the stories you don’t read about in the newspaper, but are something you learn off-hand or just happen upon in everyday life when no one is watching. Like the Kentucky State Police trooper who takes someone to jail at night, but then returns the next morning to take them to church. …
“This is the type of service which happens here every day that, oftentimes, no one hears about,’ Tilley continued. “It happens because we are blessed with so many dedicated professionals, like you, who rather than talking about service, go out and make the sacrifice. And unfortunately sometimes that sacrifice means sacrificing everything.”
Hampton echoed Tilley’s statement, noting that law enforcement often is unfairly demonized in America, and the sacrifices made each day by the commonwealth’s officers are not appreciated enough.
Hampton recalled one of her first official duties as lieutenant governor was attending a visitation in November 2015 for fallen Richmond Police Officer Daniel Ellis.
“It was the first time I had ever attended such a visitation in an official capacity, and I was overwhelmed, first of all, by the show of support for the people who were here even at the late hour,” Hampton said. “But what I’ll never forget is meeting his wife and son. Hugging her – it was a very sobering moment. And it brought home the duties I have in this capacity to reach out to law enforcement and to attend events like this one.”
Hampton spoke of most recently attending a similar memorial for Louisville Metro Police Officer Nick Rodman, who was killed in the line of duty March 29.
“They were just so young,” Hampton said of Ellis and Rodman. “It brought home to me the sacrifices you all make as law enforcement officers. That you put your lives on the line every time you go out, and you don’t know that you will come home. I pray that you do.
“When I attended Daniel Ellis’ visitation I learned a new term – end of watch,” the lieutenant governor continued. “My prayer for each and every one of you is that your end of watch doesn’t come until you’re old and gray and have bounced many a grandchild on your knee. Not in the line of duty.”
This year’s ceremony included special music from Louisville Metro Police Department Pipes and Drums, Kentucky United Pipes and Drums, bugler Chris Conley with the Maysville Police Department and vocalist Debra Nantz with Lexington E911. The Oldham County Police Department Honor Guard presented colors. The Richmond Police Department conducted a 21-gun salute.
The Kentucky Law Enforcement Memorial monument is the only monument in the commonwealth that recognizes nearly all Kentucky peace officers who have been killed in the line of duty. This year’s additions bring the total number of names on the monument to 536.
The memorial foundation was established in 1999 to build the unique memorial. Once the monument was completed in 2000, the organization expanded its efforts to include an ongoing financial endowment program, which helps Kentucky peace officers and their families with educational, medical and emergency needs.