A tribute to fallen officers
STORY & PHOTOS BY DEBBIE PAGE
The Mooresville Police Department hosted a ceremony Monday to honor fallen officers in Iredell County as well as to thank those law enforcement personnel who serve their communities every day.
George Almond, an injury-retired officer from the Cary Police Department, was the featured speaker for the event, which was held as part of the National Police Week. Almond was shot between the eyes on a routine traffic stop and left for dead, which resulted in months of grueling rehab and recovery as well as permanent brain injury and some vision and hearing loss.
“It’s a true honor and humbling for me to be here at this solemn event. We’re here to do a most important thing -- to honor those fallen in the line of duty, our family in blue,” Almond explained.
“Crises never leave us the same way as we are. It is then that we have a choice on how we are going to handle the major block, setback, disappointment, or heartache. Is this going to make us bitter or better?” he added.
Almond refused to allow bitterness against someone whose violent actions ended his career define him. “God doesn’t put you in a situation that you can’t handle with his help. With his help, there can be good coming out of something like this.”
Almond now helps others by sharing his story. He encourages others to make a difference by being an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, or the giver of a hug or smile.
“Try to leave a legacy that you want to be remembered by,” he said,
After the presentation of the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance, Mooresville Police Chaplain Rev. William Conrad asked God “to honor our brothers here at home and across the nation that have given the greatest sacrifice that any man can for his fellow man.”
After a rousing rendition of the National Anthem by young Carrie Radar, Mooresville Police Chief Damon Williams welcomed the crowd of about 100 officers, dignitaries and community members. Williams was in Washington, D.C., over the weekend for the national ceremony and was overwhelmed by the sight of 45,000 officers honoring the lives of fallen officers.
Iredell County Sheriff's Deputy and Police and Community Together (PACT) President J.D. Williams thanked Sheriff Darren Campbell and Chief Williams for their support of the organization, which has conducted more than 20 sessions to educate community members about vehicle stop procedures and civilians’ rights at traffic stops.
PACT’s mission is to go into all areas of Iredell County to build relationships between the community and law enforcement officers. The organization partners with all county police agencies in its work.
“There’s often a lack of respect and lack of trust between the community and police,” said J.D. Williams. “PACT's mission is to go where the police are not welcome or not wanted or not liked. We try to answer the questions and deal with the issues and listen to the community and take it back to the powers that be and address it as needed.”
Capt. Joseph Cooke also presented the Iredell County Crimestoppers Officer of the Year award to Mooresville native Capt. Clayton Fleming, who will retire in 10 days after serving as an officer since 1988.
Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins then proclaimed May 14-20 as National Police Week in Mooresville, honoring not only local officers but the 900,000 officers serving across the nation and the more than 20,000 killed in the line of duty since 1792.
“It is important that all citizens know and understand the problems, duties, and responsibilities of their police department and that members of our police department recognize their duty to serve the people by safeguarding life and property by protecting them against violence or disorder and by protecting the innocent against deception and the weak against oppression and intimidation,” said Atkins.
The Mooresville Police Department Honor Guard laid a wreath honoring Iredell County’s fallen as Maj. Ronnie Chilton read their names: Deputy John H. Miller (ICSO), June 30, 1917; Deputy Robert Lloyd Cloaninger (ICSO), August 3, 1919; Officer James Ross White (Statesville Police Department), March 18, 1934; Sheriff Godfrey Click Kimball (ICSO), August 17, 1934; Trooper Cecil H. Hoffman (N.C. Highway Patrol), March 15, 1968; Lt. Larry Vernon Barger (Mooresville Police Department), July 13, 1974; Officer William John Pettit Sr. (Troutman Police Department), December 2, 1990; Officer David Michael Anthony (N.C. Department of Corrections), October 27, 1998; and Probation/Patrol Officer II Jeffrey Lynn Settle (N.C. Division of Community Corrections), August 4, 2011.
Afterwards, Mooresville Fire Department bagpipers Jordan Dumsford and Russell Smith performed “Amazing Grace,” followed by the playing of “Taps” by Mooresville High School NJROTC member Darien Scott.
As the ceremony closed, Chief Williams reminded the audience that all officers “do it knowing they might have to pay the ultimate sacrifice that day, and they do it honorably and they do it humbly and they do it in the face of adversity.” He then thanked them and asked for applause for all officers present.
Mayor Atkins said that participating in the ceremony was an honor and privilege. “It’s a reminder that these men and women who go out to work each day may not come home.”
Mooresville Mayor Pro Tem Thurmond Houston, Mooresville Town Manager David Treme, Deputy Town Manager Angel Lanier, Iredell County Sheriff Darren Campbell, Troutman Police Chief Matthew Selves, District Attorney Sarah Kirkman, Clerk of Court Jim Mixson, Mooresville Graded School District Superintendent Dr. Stephen Mauney, and Iredell County School Board Chair Martin Page were among the officials who attended the ceremony.