Thirty-eight law enforcement officers from Richmond, Columbia and Aiken counties killed in the line of duty were honored during a Wednesday luncheon for Peace Officer Memorial Day.
“When heroes fall that’s what you do – honor that hero every chance you get,” Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree said during the welcoming speech at Richmond on the Greene.
Department heads from the affected agencies listed their “fallen heroes” and gave a short description of the circumstances surrounding their deaths. The agencies ranged from local sheriff’s offices and police departments to the board of education, military police and U.S. marshals.
The first recorded law enforcement death in Augusta happened in January 1794 when U.S. Marshal Robert Forsyth was fatally shot while attempting to serve an arrest warrant. The most recent, more than 200 years later, happened when Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers, of the Aiken Department of Public Safety, was killed in January 2012.
As the names of the most recent deaths were read, many officers in the crowd wiped away tears.
“As I went over the names, I was involved either directly or indirectly with many of them,” said former Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength, who also worked in the Augusta Police Department. “I lost four heroes while I was sheriff. Nothing is worse than getting that call that one of your officers has been killed.”
Families of those killed were honored with a “Hero Coin.”
Between October 2011 and January 2012, three Augusta area officers were killed – Richmond County sheriff’s Deputy J.D. Paugh, Aiken Public Safety Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson and Rogers.
Only one of the 38 cases remain unsolved. Roundtree said he has asked his investigators to locate the file on Augusta Police Department Officer Frank Henderson Wall Jr. and reopen it.
Former Sheriff Charles B. Webster, who died in November 2012 at age 80, was also honored. He was Richmond County sheriff from 1984 to 2000.
“He definitely doesn’t fall into the category of our fallen heroes,” said Strength, a close friend of Webster. “He wouldn’t stand for it if we tried to (put him in that category), but he was our sheriff.”
He was described as a man who was always proud of his agencies and his employees.
The ceremony was just one of the events planned for National Police Week. On Tuesday evening more than 300 people turned out for a GreenJackets game and dinner that honored fallen officers.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which it falls as National Police Week.
Flags across the country were lowered to half staff Wednesday.