May 15 proclaimed Police Memorial Day

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 10, 2001

Staff Writer

Losing one’s life is always in the back of a law enforcement officer’s mind.

That has only happened five times in nearly 100 years of Troy’s history, but other law enforcement officers with ties to Pike County have also lost their lives.

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On May 15, which has been declared Police Memorial Day by Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford, area law enforcement officers will gather at Bicentennial Park to remember their fallen comrades. That ceremony will begin at 1:30 p.m. in front of the police memorial monument that bears the names of Troy Police Department officers Will G. Jackson, Jene Hayden Youngblood, Cecil Sullivan, Billy Dease and Steve Watkins, Alabama Game Warden Grady Russell Jackson and R.W. "Bob" Jones, who was an Alabama State Trooper.

The first Troy officer to die while on duty was Will G. Jackson, who was shot on June 3, 1905 while trying to make an arrest. He was attempting to arrest a man who had reportedly failed to pay his street tax when he was shot the chest, near where his badge was pinned over his heart. He lived only about 20 minutes longer.

It wasn’t until 1962 when the next officer was killed by gunfire.

On May 23, 1962, Jene Hayden Youngblood’s life ended as he stood in the doorway of Hickman’s Store on Highway 29, after he’d chased a bandit to that location.

The next officer to die in the line of duty was not shot, but suffered a heart attack after transporting a patient from Troy to Baptist Hospital in Montgomery. Cecil J. "Shorty" Sullivan, 44, died on Nov. 13, 1967 after 18 years with the Troy Police Department.

Just a few months later, Billy Ray Dease died as the result of injuries sustained while on duty. On the evening of Jan. 8, 1968, Dease was directing traffic ­ around a house fire ­ at the intersection of South Brundidge and Charold Street when he was struck by a car driven by Jesse Curtis Senn, 58, of Brundidge. The three-year veteran of the department became the first fatality of 1968 after a year during which no fatalities had been reported in Troy.

The last Troy officer to lose his life in the line of duty was Officer Steve Watkins.

The 25-year-old Troy man was shot ­ just feet away from his patrol car ­ while answering a disturbance call on Thanksgiving Day. After only two years on the force, Watkins became the first officer shot in over 19 years.

In a two-year period during the 1990s, two Troy State University graduates who went on to become police officers were killed on duty.

Willie Henry Pryor was killed in January 1995 while on duty for the Montgomery Police Department.

Gary Wayne Heath died in June 1994 while working for the Greenville Police Department.

Heath’s mother is supposed to be at the ceremony on Wednesday. She is an active member of an organization for the survivors of law enforcement officers who die from injuries sustained in the line of duty ­ COPS (Concerns of Police Survivors).

Troy Police Chief Anthony Everage, whose department has coordinated the annual ceremony for 23 years, said it’s important to remember those who have given "the ultimate sacrifice" to keep peace in the community and residents safe from harm. He said it’s also important to honor the family members.

But, no matter how they died, it still remains a fact, they died while protecting and serving the people of Troy, Everage said.

That’s why they are being remembered May 13-19, which is National Police Week.

In recognition of National Police Week, officers with the Troy Police Department will tie blue ribbons to their patrol cars’ antennas.