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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Fallen police officers honored in Sharp County

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Police Officers from Sharp County, Ash Flat, Highland, Cherokee Village, Hardy, Cave City, Ravenden and Arkansas State Police honor fallen brothers and sisters in law enforcement on May 14 at the Sharp County Courthouse for National Police Officer Memorial Day. Photos/Tammy Curtis [Order this photo]
On Monday, May 14, Sharp County held it's 19th annual ceremony to honor fallen police officers. The event began in 1993, after the fatal accident of Cave City Officer Jeff Richardson, while in the line of duty. The local ceremony is part of a national holiday that has been observed for over 40 years.

Sharp County Sheriff Mark Counts welcomed a large crowd to the memorial at the courthouse, as police officers in full uniform from around the county, state police and Ravenden Police Department representatives stood to honor their fallen brothers and sisters in law enforcement.

Highland Assembly of God Pastor, Chris Clem, offered the invocation following the presentation of colors by the Arkansas Sheriff's Association Honor Guard. Highland Band Director Greg Bruner played the Star Spangled Banner on the trumpet, before key note speakers Ronnie Baldwin, Executive Director of the Arkansas Sheriff's Association and Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington spoke.

Richardson's parents, Jack and Tommie, were present for the service and laid a wreath on the memorial, as they have done every year since their son's death.

Baldwin said 362 officers died in 2011, adding new names to the national Police Memorial in Washington, DC, which lists over 20,000 fallen officers, including 257 female officers.

In 2011, Jay Smith from Trumann was killed in the line of duty. "I hope his is the last Arkansas name we ever have to put on that wall," Baldwin said.

According to Baldwin, one officer is killed every 53.5 hours in the United States. Over the last three years, the deaths from shootings has steadily increased over those from traffic accidents. "This proves criminals are becoming more violent," he said. Adding to the concern for safety, Baldwin explained that southern states have the highest incidences of officer shootings.

Already in 2012, one female correction officer has lost her life in the line of duty at the correctional facility in Brickeys, Ark.

Following Baldwin, Ellington stated, "There is no such thing as a routine traffic stop." Ellington said Smith was one of the officers in his district, adding he has had to give the news of three officers' deaths to their families.

He offered words of advice to all the officers present: "Be safe and remember, your most important job is to go home to your family."

Ravenden Police Chief Tim McComas sang "Amazing Grace," before the Richardson's placed the wreath on the memorial gate.

Each officer took a moment to show their respect for their brothers and sisters in law enforcement by saluting the memorial before solemnly filing out of the ceremony.

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. The accident occurred approximately one mile south of Evening Shade on Highway 167, when the passing motorist turned left in front of Richardson's patrol car.

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

Richardson is the only police officer to be killed in the line of duty in Sharp County.

Jack Richardson 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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