Honoring fallen peace officers

Messenger photos by Kristy Zurbrick
The flag folding ceremony begins at the 34th Ohio Peace Officers Memorial Ceremony, held May 5 at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in London.

(Posted May 9, 2022)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Law enforcement officers from throughout Ohio gathered on May 5 to pay tribute to the five Ohio peace officers who died in the line of duty last year.

The Ohio Peace Officers Memorial Ceremony takes place each year at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in London.  It is a solemn event that evokes reverence for the sacrifice of those lost and the suffering of their loved ones and colleagues.

Several pipe-and-drum corps groups participated in the processional and recessional at the ceremony.

Multiple honor guards and pipe-and-drum corps make up the processional. A salute by a firing battery, the sounding of “Taps,” a ceremonial flag folding, and a helicopter flyover are all part of the tribute. So is the reading of the names of the officers most recently lost.

This year, in a break from tradition, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost asked the fallen officers’ family members, who were seated under a tent facing the Fallen Officers Memorial Wall, and everyone gathered on the surrounding lawn to stand. Normally, a moment of silence follows the reading of each officers’ name. Instead, Yost asked those in attendance to loudly repeat the officers’ names after he read them.

One of the flags representing the five Ohio peace officers who lost their lives last year is unveiled. Ribbons bearing the names of the officers were attached to the flag staffs. Visible in the background are flags representing fallen officers from previous years.

“I think we have been silent for too long,” he said, then requested a sustained round of applause for the officers’ being remembered this year, as well as the more than 800 other Ohio law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty since 1823, all of whose names are etched on the memorial wall.

Yost’s gesture followed comments he made in his address about the call of some over the past couple of years to defund or abolish the police. He called it “an assault on the legitimacy” of law enforcement and stated that anyone who has not worn a badge has “no standing to make blanket condemnation of law enforcement.”

Attorney General Dave Yost delivers his address during the ceremony, recognizing the sacrifice of the fallen officers and the grief of their family members.

He said that freedom and security depends on the rule of law, and law enforcement officers defend the rule of law.

“They are remembered in stone because they–and those who continue their work–are the foundation of our society, and, therefore, they are the foundation of all the good things the rest of us enjoy,” he said.

The five officers who died while on the job last year are:

Officer Brandon M. StalkerToledo Police Department

On Jan, 18, 2021, Stalker was fatally shot at a SWAT scene when the suspect opened fire while trying to flee the house where he had barricaded himself. Stalker, 24, had graduated from the police academy less than two years earlier. The two things he loved best, his family and his job, were blossoming side by side. He talked often about his two young children, his fiancée and their upcoming wedding. His passion for his calling was just as obvious.

Family members who lost loved ones last year stand as Attorney General Dave Yost asks them to repeat the names of the five officers who died on the job in 2021.

Deputy Donald R. Gilreath IIIHamilton County Sheriff’s Office

On Feb. 12, 2021, Gilreath, 36, died of complications from the COVID-19 virus, which he contracted on the job. As much of society quarantined during the pandemic, the 15-year veteran continued his duties at the Hamilton County Justice Center, where he oversaw the control room and greeted everyone entering the building with a kind word and a laugh. He left behind his wife and three children.

A riderless horse is always part of the recessional following the annual Ohio Peace officers Memorial ceremony.

Natural Resources Officer Jason S. LagoreOhio Department of Natural Resources

On Feb. 23, 2021, Lagore, 36, suffered a heart attack at Rocky Fork State Park as he and his K-9 partner were searching for the body of a teenage girl trapped under the ice. Lagore was married and the father of two young boys. He was the driving force behind ODNR’s K-9 program during his 15-year career. He created the department’s first K-9 academy, led the Division of Parks and Watercraft K-9 training program, and was often asked by other agencies to lend his expertise to their search, rescue and recovery operations.

Vehicles from each of the departments that lost officers last year–including this one driven in honor of Officer Brandon M. Stalker of the Toledo Police Department–lead the recessional following the ceremony.

Officer Scott R. Dawley – Nelsonville Police Department

On Aug. 3, 2021, Dawley, 43, died in a three-vehicle crash while responding to a report of gunfire. He was well-known around his hometown for his selflessness, humor and sense of justice. The seven-year veteran of the department and second-most-senior offic­er loved his job and was looking forward to a possible promotion to sergeant. Newly remarried, he left behind his wife and seven children.

Nathan Scherger (left) and Mark Hauenstein, Columbus patrol officers, stand by the wreath honoring the memories of fallen Ohio peace officers.

Officer Shane H. Bartek – Cleveland Division of Police

On New Year’s Eve 2021, while off duty, Bartek was shot and killed when a woman ambushed him from behind to steal his car. The 25-year-old had been on the force for two years and was constantly extending himself during his short career. He spent time reading at a child care center. He loved the Shop With A Cop program at Christmastime. His partners fondly remember how he helped and later stayed in touch with a suicidal Navy veteran who had become addicted to drugs.

Additional Tribute

Also honored this year was Deputy Rex E. Faux of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. Faux died in the line of duty in 1933 but was never recognized. His name has been added to the memorial wall.

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