Honoring fallen law enforcement heroes
A wreath marked with nine yellow roses, representing the nine law enforcement officers who were killed serving Manatee County, sat at the front of a room in a crowded downtown Bradenton church Thursday morning.
The lives of the nine officers and their families were honored during an emotional ceremony at the annual Manatee County Law Enforcement Memorial at First Baptist Church, 1306 Manatee Ave. W.
May 15 marked Peace Officers Memorial Day and this week is recognized as Law Enforcement Week in Manatee County.
“The great task is we have to continue to remember the individuals that have laid down their lives for us,” Manatee County Commissioner and keynote speaker Reggie Bellamy said.
Bellamy encouraged those in attendance to honor those who died as well as their families.
The deaths of law enforcement officers have left a lasting impact on many in the community, though it’s been more than 30 years since a law enforcement officer was killed in the line of duty in Manatee County.
The most recent was Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jeff Young, who was shot and killed during a traffic stop on Aug. 18, 1987.
Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells was trained by Trooper Young, and Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan recalls being a young rooking in St. Petersburg and attending Young’s funeral.
Wells told the crowd of more than 200 law enforcement officers, their families, members of the community and a row of new recruits that it’s their job to keep the memory of those who have gone before them alive.
“We do that by serving our community the way they did and the way they would want us to,” Wells said.
For Bevan, seeing young recruits in the audience surrounded by the community reminded her why officers do their jobs.
“It’s a dangerous profession but we’re willing to keep doing it and we’ve got young people following in our steps,” Bevan said after the ceremony.
Fallen officers honored at Law Enforcement Memorial Service
- City of Palmetto Officer Joe Terry
- Manatee County Deputy Sheriff Edward Matthews
- Manatee County Constable Barnie A. Cumbia
- Bradenton Police Department Officer Steve Bennett
- Manatee County Constable Shirley Dewey Smith
- Bradenton Police Department Officer Carl W. Cox
- Florida Highway Patrol Sergeant John C. Baxter
- Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Detective Herbert W. Grimes
- Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jeffery D. Young