A crowd of about 100 set work and life aside for a moment Friday to attend a ceremony honoring law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty nationwide.
Hosted by the Surry County Sheriff’s Office and held outside headquarters in Dobson, the ceremony corresponded in time with the funeral of a recently slain deputy in Texas.
According to media reports the sheriff’s deputy, Darren Goforth, was shot 15 times and killed while fueling his vehicle August 27.
Goforth, married and the father of two young children, was in his uniform at the time.
The shooting sparked concern about a backlash against the police in light of recent high profile cases alleging police brutality.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statement Wednesday asking all police officers in the state turn on their emergency lights for one minute to mark the beginning of the deputy’s funeral on Friday at 11 a.m.
John Fleming, a congressman from Louisiana, where two officers were killed last week, urged President Obama to declare a National Day of Prayer.
When officers in Surry County caught wind late Thursday they decided to do their own show of solidarity.
An email went out to county employees and a Facebook post received more than 26,000 views, according to Surry County Sheriff Graham Atkinson.
The ceremony was well attended by a cross section of on- and off-duty law enforcement officers from city and county departments and the highway patrol as well as representatives from county offices associated with law enforcement such as the district attorney’s office, the clerk of courts and the Department of Social Services.
Members of the community were also welcome. Joe Barr, a Mount Airy resident said, “they do a tough job for little money, and they need our support.”
After an opening prayer led by Chris White, a Dobson minister, Surry County Sheriff Graham Atkinson spoke.
“Law enforcement today has come under attack,” Atkinson said. “Out of the 900,000 officers in the country, you hear about the one case of one bad cop or one who made a bad decision in a stressful situation. You don’t hear about the 899,999 that did it right that day.”
Atkinson referenced The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., to comment on the life of a law enforcement officer, where birthdays and holidays with family are missed and in the worst case, lives are lost.
“Each of those names on the wall represents a person,” Atkinson said. “It represents a husband, represents a wife, represents a son, daughter, father or mother. It represents a friend. And they represent a brother or sister to one of us.”
Following Atkinson’s remarks, a list of names of officers killed nationwide in the line of duty in 2015 was read.
Atkinson invited the crowd to walk in silence across the street to the Fallen Officer Memorial in the lawn of the old courthouse, asking the group to pray for the family of the Texas officer and for the families of Surry County officers killed in the line of duty as they walked.
“We ask that you pray with us that we never have to add another name,” Atkinson said.
Setting the cross-shaped wreath in front of the memorial, Atkinson paused with Paul Barker from the Mount Airy Police Department, Richard Bowman, Surry County district attorney, Ian Tedder, an investigator at the North Carolina Department of Insurance, and James Atkins, state trooper, their hands grasping the wreath’s stand.
Rex Walker, an Elkin minister, knelt in front of the wreath and closed the ceremony with prayer.
Terri Flagg can be reached at 336-415-4734 or firstname.lastname@example.org.