This week we celebrate National Police Officer week. Originated in 1962, the week is set aside to remember those officers who were killed in the line of duty serving their communities. Memorial services are held across the country and a national ceremony is conducted in Washington, DC on May 15th.
On the sidewalk in front of the Alleghany County Law Enforcement Center is a granite monument erected by the Alleghany County Fraternal Order of Police. The inscription states the monument is, “Dedicated to the memory of those law enforcement officers who gave their lives in the line of duty while protecting and serving the citizens of Alleghany County North Carolina.” While it is difficult to summarize personal sacrifice, the following gives some insight to the circumstances leading to these Alleghany County officers’ deaths.
Deputy Charlie B. Shepherd was shot and killed on April 14, 1938 while he was off duty working in his mother’s garden. A man approached and shot him in retaliation for having a confrontation with his son a few days earlier.
Deputy Shepherd’s killer became the first Alleghany County resident to receive the death penalty. He was executed in the gas chamber on January 19, 1940.
Sparta Police Chief Charles Taylor and NC State Highway Patrolman Weaver Hogan were killed when their patrol car was forced off the road into a bridge abutment on US Route 21 south of Wytheville, Virginia. The two officers, along with a third officer, had chased the bootlegging suspects into Virginia from North Carolina.
The bridge crossing the Little River on Highway 21 south is named in honor of these two officers.
Sheriff Porter Collins was shot and killed while serving a warrant on a man who had failed to appear in court on a drunk driving charge. Before taking the suspect in, Sheriff Collins allowed the suspect to go back into his home to get more clothing. The suspect returned with a shotgun and shot Sheriff Collins once at close range, killing him instantly.
The suspect fled the scene and was captured the next day when officers found him hiding in the attic of a cabin near Lowgap in neighboring Surry County.
The suspect was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison on February 1, 1955. He was paroled December 10, 1981.
Alleghany County Deputy Sheriff Clint Caudill died of a heart attack while on duty. Due to a combination of accumulated stress and poor dietary habits, law enforcement officers are 25 times more likely to die from heart disease than at the hands of suspects.
Law enforcement officers often go about their jobs in relative obscurity. We tend to take for granted that our community is safe and that we can fill comfortable anywhere in the county. Yet, that safe feeling doesn’t just happen. It is cultivated by county’s deputy sheriffs, town police officers, wildlife officers, state troopers, and state and federal park rangers. Each has a different area of responsibility, but all work together to make our community safe.
We can’t say “Thank you” to those officers killed in the line of duty. However, we can offer our thanks to those officers that carry on the mission of serving the citizens and visitors of Alleghany County.
Information and photos for this post was gathered from the Officer Down Memorial Page