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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Remembering the fallen

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tommie and Jack Richardson Photo by Chris Murphy
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the fatal accident of Officer Jeff Richardson of Cave City while in the line of duty. Sharp County has held a memorial service in order to honor Richardson and all fallen police officers in the state of Arkansas, since the year after his death in 1993.

Although Sharp County has only held the annual Police Officer Memorial for 14 years, the tribute ceremony has been a national holiday for more than 40 years.

On May 21, 1993, Richardson was called out to assist a fellow officer in a vehicle pursuit, and while in route collided with another motorist. According to the "Ash Flat History Book" the accident occurred approximately one mile south of Evening Shade on Highway 167 at 3:20 p.m. when the passing motorist turned left in front of Richardson's patrol car.

Richardson's mother, Tommie Richardson, said her son died at the hospital about two hours later. Tommie and Jack Richardson found out about the fatal accident on the way to Cave City to pick up their grandchildren for the weekend.

"We noticed the cars were backed up and when we got up to the accident we recognized his patrol car," Jack said. "We're still not through it. Someone who's never been through something like this might think you get over it soon but we think about him and our daughter every day," Jack Richardson said in regards to his son's death.

The Richardson family is no stranger to tragedy with their youngest daughter, Susan Richardson, dying at the age of 15 and Richardson dying at the age of 31 leaving behind two children and a wife. They explained that although you never get over losing a child, you take life one day at a time.

"Having the grandchildren make it easier to deal with it as well," Tommie said.

Richardson's parents said he had always wanted to work in public service and becoming a police officer fulfilled his dream. Although they worried about their son and had concern for his chosen career path, they were proud of his accomplishments in serving the community.

"I think every parent has concern for their child in whatever they do," Jack said.

Richardson was married in 1986 and had two children, Craig and Leah. He started in Cave City as a volunteer fire fighter and then attended the police academy at the age of 28.

"He liked his job. He liked working with the people and helping the people," Jack said.

Craig and Leah were only 3 and 5 when Richardson's accident occurred, and today are building a life for themselves at college and in the military. Leah is attending the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, and Craig, following in his father's footsteps of community service, has put his college days on hold and joined the United States Army to become a military police officer.

Although Richardson is the only police officer to be fatally wounded in the line of duty in Sharp County in modern times, according to the brochure for this year's Police Officer Memorial, more than 200 police officers have died in Arkansas this year alone.

"In 2005 and 2006 there was an average of one officer killed every 57 hours, and in 2007 a police officer died every 48 hours. It shows that people who do this job have to be dedicated to serving the people and their community," Jack said.

Jack also said that he is thankful his son can be memorialized every year during National Police Officer Week and that police officers who still serve can be thanked for their duty to the people of their communities.


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