Nine names are etched on a law enforcement memorial in the northwestern lawn outside the Limestone County Courthouse.
Each name contains a story with a tragic ending, but the stories remind us they’re of those willing to protect and serve the community.
One officer was transporting blood when injuries from a wreck led to his death. Another attempted to chase his shooter despite sustaining three gunshot wounds. He collapsed and died.
In honor of each of the nine officers who died in the line of duty, the Athens Police Department will hold a memorial service at 5 p.m. today at the Limestone County Law Enforcement Memorial. The service is in recognition of May 12-18 being National Police Week.
“We will honor the end of watch for those nine men by reading their names,” Police Chief Floyd Johnson said.
Michelle Russell Lopez, the widow of Sgt. Larry Russell, will serve as the guest speaker.
Athens Police Honor Guard will lay a wreath at the memorial.
All members of law enforcement and the community are invited to attend.
“This is a way to thank those who are serving and have served, and to remember those who gave their life protecting their community,” Johnson said.
Flags for fallen officers
Athens Police are working on a project to further honor those who gave their lives in the line of duty. Six of the names on the memorial worked for Athens Police.
Russell and officer Tony Mims, who were killed by a gunman in Jan. 2004, have flagpoles and American flags on their gravesites, but the other four officers do not. However, the department recently held a golf tournament to raise money to purchase flag poles for the other four graves.
“Woodmen of the World donated the four flags to us, and we raised enough money to buy the flag poles, so now we are working on getting the flags on the graves,” Johnson said.
End of Watch for Limestone County
Athens Police Department
• Bedford F. Brackeen — End of Watch: March 24, 1941
Brackeen was sitting in a patrol car with his partner at the old bus stop at Clinton Street when a man approached their car and started an argument about a prior incident. The man pulled out a revolver and opened fire. Brackeen exited the car and exchanged shots. Brackeen was shot three times but still attempted to chase the suspect before collapsing. The suspect was arrested near Nashville and convicted of first-degree murder.
• Billy Daly — End of Watch: Dec. 22, 1964
Daly was on his police motorcycle when a vehicle struck him at U.S. 31 and Forrest Street. He had been with the department for two years.
• Lt. Benton McLemore — End of Watch: March 7, 1969
A suspect shot and killed McLemore after the officer responded to the suspect’s house to check on his welfare. The suspect was known to be mentally ill and shot McLemore with a shotgun after the officer knocked on the door. The suspect killed himself before capture.
• Dewey Wayne Dorsey Sr. — End of Watch: Feb. 11, 1989
Dorsey died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident while transporting blood to Athens-Limestone Hospital. The hospital treated and released Dorsey, but a blood clot developed and killed him.
• Sgt. Larry Wayne Russell and officer Tony Mims — End of Watch: Friday, Jan. 2, 2004
The men responded to a 911 call made by a man with a history of mental illness. The man opened fire as each officer pulled into the driveway, killing Mims first and Russell second. The bullets pierced their vehicles and bulletproof vests. The suspect died in prison.
Limestone County Sheriff’s Department
• Chief Deputy James Henry Eubank — End of Watch: Thursday, June 13, 1918
A suspect shot and killed Eubank while he searched a house for a weapon.
• David E. Temple — End of Watch: Sept. 13, 1979
A man shot and killed Temple after the officer pulled up to him in Limestone County in an attempt to arrest him for a car lot robbery in Decatur. The man leaned out of his car and opened fire on Temple. The man then got out of the car and walked to where Temple lay on the ground and shot him several more times. The suspect fled the scene and led police on a chase through Madison. Police shot and killed him after he wounded another officer.
• Simmie L. Jeffries — End of Watch: Friday, Dec. 21, 1984
Jeffries died from an accident when his patrol car collided with a tractor-trailer in Limestone County.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week in which May 15 falls as National Police Week.
According to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, 40 officers have been killed this year, as of May 10. Each year, there are approximately 60,000 assaults on law enforcement officers, resulting in nearly 16,000 injuries. Throughout U.S. history, more than 19,000 law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice.