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GPD, BCSO honor fallen officers

Local law enforcement officers honored their fallen comrades on Wednesday with a memorial service at the Wendell Mitchell Conference Center on the campus of LBW Community College.  (Advocate Staff/Andy Brown)

Local law enforcement officers honored their fallen comrades on Wednesday with a memorial service at the Wendell Mitchell Conference Center on the campus of LBW Community College. (Advocate Staff/Andy Brown)

The Greenville Police Department has lost three officers in the line of duty.

The last was Officer Gary Wayne Heath, who was shot and killed in 1994 after interrupting a robbery attempt of a local convenience store.

The number of officers currently serving on the force that knew Heath is dwindling. It’s for that reason the department holds a memorial service each year to honor Heath, as well as officers George Bryan and Joe Herring, who gave their lives in the line of duty while serving the City of Greenville.

“There will be officers that take part in this service that didn’t know Gary personally,” Chief Lonzo Ingram said. “That’s why it is so important that we stand up here and call these names. We want to keep their memory alive.”

Butler County Sheriff’s Office deputies John T. Sanders, Sr., William Henry Barganier and Tim Williamson were also remembered during the service.

Williamson, a longtime veteran of the Butler County Sheriff’s Department, died of a massive heart attack in October.

“It’s very fitting that we come here every year to do this,” Ingram said. “As I get older this event becomes more important to me. Just recently in Mississippi we had two young police officers killed. Usually when a police officer gets killed like that at the end of the day it’s over nothing — literally nothing. Their lives are taken from them for nothing. We’re here today to remember that, and our officers that gave their lives in the line of duty.”

Along with remembering the officers that gave their lives in service to the community, the GPD and the BCSO honored their officer and deputy of the year.

Sgt. Tommy Anderson received the GPD’s Officer of the Year award.

Chief Deputy Lenny Lee received the BCSO’s Deputy of the Year award.

The GPD also awarded the Gary Wayne Heath Education Award to Officer Cole Wyatt.

Southside Baptist Church pastor Herbert Brown served as the keynote speaker for the event.

Ingram said that with the “war that is being waged against police officers” it was fitting to have a pastor deliver a message of hope and encouragement.

“Today we pay tribute to those that paid the ultimate price, but we also pay honor to those that continue to serve us. Those that continue to make this city and our county a safer place,” Brown said.

 

KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY

1892: William Henry Barganier was killed while attempting to arrest a man wanted on multiple charges. When Barganier entered the boarding house where the man was staying, he was shot in the face and later died from the injuries.

1904: Greenville Police Officer George Bryan responded to a residence in the Till Community of Butler County to assist the Sheriff’s Office in serving a warrant on a suspect accused of burning down the Baptist church in Till. The suspect resisted and fired several shots. Officer Bryan was struck and critically injured. He died five days later.

1939: John T. Sanders, Sr. was killed while trying to apprehend a suspect. He was transporting a prisoner back to Greenville by train when the man suddenly jumped from the moving train near Georgiana. Sanders jumped out of the train and tumbled down a steep embankment. While Sanders successfully recaptured the escapee, he later died from injuries suffered during his jump from the train.

1968: Greenville Police Officer Joe Herring was thrown from his motorcycle while pursuing a fleeing vehicle on Hwy. 10 West.

1994: Greenville Police Officer Gary Wayne Heath was shot and killed after interrupting a robbery attempt at a local convenience store. The suspect later shot and killed Deputy Len J. Rowell, of the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department (Miss.) and Lt. Coy Smith of the Alabama Public Service Commission. The suspect committed suicide after being surrounded by officers.

2014: Deputy Tim Williamson suffered a heart attack following a struggle with a subject he was attempting to arrest. Believing he had strained a muscle during the struggle, he did not seek medical treatment. The pain in his chest continued and on Oct. 23 it became severe after he responded to several calls for service. He drove himself to a local hospital where he was diagnosed with a heart attack. He suffered a massive heart attack while being transported to a second hospital, where he died two days later.