This is National Police Week, and Friday, May 15 will be Peace Officers Memorial Day across the United States.
As the nation takes time to honor law enforcement officers, a local ceremony is set for 7 a.m. this Friday, May 15, when the flag at the Erath County Annex Building will be lowered to half staff. There will also be a moment of silence and prayer, and taps will be played, according to Stephenville Chief of Police Dan Harris.
“We will pause and remember those who have died in the line of duty,” Harris said, noting that the flag will remain at half staff the rest of that day.
“It’s a time to reflect on those who have lost their lives doing what they do, and honoring them the way they should be honored,” Erath County Sheriff Matt Coates said. “It’s nice to see the county come together for a week and to pay tribute to the officers who have lost their lives.”
Last Saturday, friends and family members of local law enforcement officers showed their support by placing blue ribbons on display outside the courthouse, police department and other locations.
Harris, a veteran of 31 years in law enforcement, said that this “is a very moving time. I have been there when my partners didn’t come home at the end of their shift. I have promised them I would never, ever forget their sacrifice.”
Not only has Harris known law enforcement officers who perished in the line of duty, his own great-grandfather, Dan L. McDuffie — a member of the Texas Rangers Company B — was shot and killed.
McDuffie volunteered to negotiate for the surrender of a former jailer, who he knew, and who was threatening to kill the chief of police in Gladewater on July 7, 1931. After McDuffie arrived, however, he was fatally shot by the man. McDuffie had served in law enforcement for more than 31 years.
The five fallen law enforcement heroes from Erath County’s past were:
— Constable John A. Adams, shot and killed in an ambush at age 49. End of watch, Dec. 18, 1897.
— Sheriff’s Deputy Marion David Robertson, shot and killed at age 26 along with Deputy John T. Ross while trying to serve a warrant. End of watch, March 29, 1879.
— Sheriff’s Deputy John T. Ross, shot and killed at age 29 along with Deputy Marion David Robertson while trying to serve a warrant. End of watch, March 29, 1879.
— Sheriff James Mastin, shot and killed at age while trying to arrest a horse thief. End of watch, June 25, 1877.
— Tarleton State University Patrolman W.A. Hail, who suffered a fatal heart attack at age 56 after chasing suspects on foot. End of watch, Dec. 13, 1978.
The Texas law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty from January through December in 2019 were:
— Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Norman D. Merkel. End of watch, Jan. 16, 2019.
— Comal County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ray Elwin Horn III. End of watch, Jan. 17, 2019.
— Kendall County Community Supervision and Corrections Officer Russell Dean Salazar. End of watch, Jan. 31, 2019.
— U.S. Border Patrol Agent Donna Doss. End of watch, Feb. 2, 2019.
— Midland Police Department Officer Nathan Hayden Heidelberg. End of watch, March 5, 2019.
— El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Peter Herrera. End of watch, March 24, 2019.
— Grand Prairie Police Department Officer Albert Ramirez Castaneda Jr. End of watch, June 7, 2019.
— The Colony Police Department Sergeant David Jones Fitzpatrick. End of watch, June 10, 2019.
— Mission Police Department Corporal Jose Luis “Speedy” Espericueta Jr. End of watch, June 20, 2019.
— Kendall County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Carlos A. Ramirez. End of watch, July 2, 2019.
— Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Moises Sanchez. End of watch, Aug. 24, 2019.
— Harris County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal. End of watch, Sept. 27, 2019.
— Falls County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Matthew Ryan Jones, End of watch, Oct. 11, 2019.
— Houston Police Department Sergeant Christopher Charles Lewis Brewster. End of watch, Dec. 7, 2019.
— Nassau Bay Police Department Sergeant Kaila Marie Sullivan. End of watch, Dec. 10, 2019.
— Burnet Police Department Officer Humberto Meza. End of watch, Dec. 20, 2019.
— San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Bryan Charles Pfluger. End of watch, Dec. 21, 2019.
— San Antonio ISD Police Department Detective Cliff Martinez. End of watch, Dec. 21, 2019.
— Panola County Sheriff’s Office Deputy William Christopher Dickerson. End of watch, Dec. 31, 2019.
Two other law enforcement deaths in 2019 were canines — “K9 Able” with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and “K9 Chunky” with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office.