Police memorial honors fallen

Published 5:39 pm Friday, May 19, 2017

Local law enforcement officers recently honored their fallen brethren Wednesday during the 20th annual memorial service, held at LBW’s Wendell Mitchell Conference Center.

The Greenville Police Department honored officers George Bryan, Joe Herring and Gary Wayne Heath, in addition to the recently discovered heroic efforts of W.G. Daniel, who was killed in the line of duty in 1916.

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office similarly recognized the sacrifices of deputies John T. Sanders Sr., William Henry Barganier, Charles Sims and Tim Williams, who all gave their lives in the line of duty.

But Wednesday wasn’t reserved for solely remembering the fallen, as Greenville police chief Justin Lovvorn bestowed a number of honors to current officers serving the department.

A special presentation was made to Matthew Sipper, Josh Womack, Andrew Beck, Chase Little and Joseph Disney. The five officers assisted in the apprehension of a suspected violent felon on Grayson Street, who had already shot a victim at another location, late last year.

“The suspect attacked officers who were trying to secure a perimeter outside of a house on Grayson Street,” Lovvorn said. “He began firing shots from the window at the officers outside.

“These officers showed extreme bravery, courage and professionalism by continuing to hold their position, preventing innocent civilians from getting in harm’s way and preventing the suspect from fleeing the house even while they were under fire.  The officers that night were essential in the positive outcome that ended in the suspect being taken into custody.”

Sgt. Tyquawn Gray was awarded the Gary Wayne Heath Education Award for his positive presence as a resource officer at Greenville Middle School.

“He has a background in boxing that he uses to teach both kids and adults in his own time,” Lovvorn said. “This offers an opportunity for anyone to participate in a productive and positive use of their time and energy as opposed to getting in trouble.”

Josh Womack was named Officer of the Year and, according to Lovvorn, this year’s decision was easier than most.

“Each shift in each division nominates and officer of their choosing, and then the officers selected from that group of names,” he said. “Almost every shift and division nominated the same person.  It was not a hard choice to make after that.

“This individual is one of the most professional and dedicated officers I’ve ever known. He arrives early for his shift, and he’s one of the hardest workers while he’s there.  He’s one of those people that you can count on.  If we’re short on manpower and need someone to work overtime, he is the first name you think of. He truly loves his job, and he cares about the people he serves.  He is one of those individuals who is making a difference in this world because he believes in himself and his profession.”

Alabama’s newly appointed attorney general, Steve Marshall, served as the event’s keynote speaker, and during his address he proclaimed his admiration of law enforcement serving in Butler County and beyond.

“The greatest professional privilege that I’ve ever been given is to work directly with those people who wear badges every day when they come to work,” Marshall said.

“Every day they leave their homes, and they say goodbye to their family members without a guarantee that they’re going to return home. Today, we acknowledge that sacrifice, as we know there are officers throughout this community, throughout this state and throughout this country who didn’t make it home.”

Marshall cited a rising number of law enforcement deaths from 2016 to 2017, noting three recent incidents: Kenneth Bettis, a resource officer who was stabbed during a dispute with an inmate; Levy Pettway, who lost his life in a vehicle crash; and Thomas Price, who suffered a heart attack on duty.

“As a prosecutor, it has been my greatest honor to stand with law enforcement today,” Marshall said.

“And as attorney general, I make you this pledge—I will do everything I can to make ensure that you have the resources to do your job, and most importantly, that your stories are told to communities throughout this state.”