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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

State Police Suffer 15 Fatalities In 2005

As I have mentioned before; if I wouldn't be singing, I'd love to be working in law enforcement. I still have many friends that are police officers and try to keep up somewhat with whats happening in that field. So tonight I was looking through some websites and ran across this article. Take time to read it. Let's not forget about the men and women that put their lives on the line everyday to keep our cities and neighborhoods safe. The next time you see a police officer thank them for the job they do, encourage them and pray for them!

Taken from
by Craig W. Floyd
April 13, 2006

Missouri State Highway Patrol Sergeant Carl Dewayne Graham Jr., 37, had once written, "If I'm killed in the line of duty, I would like people to be aware that I was killed doing a job I believed in and loved doing." Those words were used to help comfort the more than 1,000 mourners who attended Sergeant Graham's funeral on March 24, 2005.

Sergeant Graham, a 12-year veteran of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, was found lying next to his patrol vehicle at his residence a few days earlier. He had been shot and killed in what appears to be a cold-blooded act of revenge. "My son was no superhero, just a common guy who worked hard and believed in what he was doing," declared Sergeant Graham's father. "I couldn't be more proud of him."

Those same sentiments could also apply to 14 other state police officers who had their lives cut short last year. Carl Dewayne Graham Jr. was the first, but others soon followed, including three more from the Missouri State Highway Patrol. One month to the day after Sergeant Graham was killed, Missouri Trooper Ralph C. Tatoian, 32, died in an automobile accident while rushing to assist in the manhunt for a suspect who had shot a deputy sheriff. A photo of his wife and three young children was the only thing found tucked in his pockets.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol lost their third member on August 17 when Corporal John A. Sampietro Jr. was struck and killed while investigating an earlier accident involving multiple fatalities. Like Sergeant Graham before him, Corporal Sampietro understood the risks of the job and was not afraid to die for something he believed in. When another Missouri officer was killed earlier in the year, he had written the following message in tribute: "Should I pass before I'm ninety in my sleep, I can only hope my death is in the service of my community. As much as we will all miss [our] fallen heroes, I can think of no more honorable way to die than in defending the safety and freedom of those we have chosen to serve."

Never before in the history of the Missouri State Highway Patrol had they lost more than two officers in a single year. But when Trooper D. Kevin Floyd was struck and killed on September 22, they had lost twice that number. The driver of the pickup that crashed into him said he was leaning over to pick up some papers on the floor of the truck when the accident occurred.

Sadly, the California Highway Patrol matched Missouri's fatality figure for 2005. On September 23, Officer David M. Romero, 47, was on patrol and sitting at a traffic light on his motorcycle when a driver under the influence of narcotics crashed into him from behind. Less than two months later, Officer Andy T. Stevens, 37, was shot and killed during a traffic stop. Then, on December 21, Officer Erick S. Manny died in an automobile accident while attempting to stop a speeding motorist.

Just 10 days later, with the New Year less than two hours away, Lieutenant Michael E. Walker became the California Highway Patrol's fourth and final fatality of the year. He was struck and killed by a vehicle while working at the scene of an earlier accident. One of the sergeants who worked with him said, "He was the kind of manager who wouldn't ask anyone to do something he wasn't willing to do himself, which is why he was working New Year's Eve."

Similar tragic tales occurred in other states across the country. On May 16, South Carolina Trooper Jonathan W. Parker, 29, was sitting in his patrol car when it was rammed intentionally by a fleeing robbery suspect. Just 10 days later, Texas Trooper Jimmy Ray Carty Jr. was fatally injured in a training exercise. On July 8, Tennessee Trooper Todd M. Larkins was struck and killed by a speeding 18-wheeler during a traffic stop.

By all accounts, Arkansas State Police Corporal Mark W. Carthron, 31, was one of the best at his job. He distinguished himself over eight years of service. It all ended, though, when robbers attempted to elude police during a high-speed chase on the evening of Sunday, September 11, 2005. Trooper Carthron had deployed spike sticks to deflate the tires of the suspect vehicle. His efforts were successful and the suspects were captured, but as he went to retrieve the spike sticks from the roadway, he was struck by one of the pursuing patrol vehicles and mortally wounded. He died the next morning. Massachusetts State Trooper Vincent P. Cila, 45, was killed in a motorcycle accident on July 22 while on patrol in downtown Boston. The Chaplain of the State Police, Joseph Bagetta, said, "Vinny has just changed addresses . . . He no longer patrols the streets of the Commonwealth, now he proudly patrols the streets around the throne of God. Visit him at his place of rest. Visit him in your hearts. Visit him in your memories."

Senior Investigator Thomas M. O'Neill, of the New York State Police, had stopped at a local gas station on the afternoon of July 6 when he was asked to remove a disorderly person who refused to leave. A struggle ensued and after getting the man handcuffed and under arrest, Investigator O'Neill complained of chest pains while on the way to the station. He was taken to the hospital and died soon after.

A colleague described Corporal Joseph R. Pokorny of the Pennsylvania State Police as someone "who cared about other people before he cared about himself." His life was violently ended by four thugs who did not share his philosophy. Corporal Pokorny was beaten, and then shot and killed during a traffic stop in the early morning hours of December 12.

Corporal Pokorny often spoke the words that were in the hearts of all of his fallen colleagues: "If you need me, I'll be there."

Reprinted with permission of the author and AMERICAN POLICE BEAT.


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