By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
The risks and tragedies police officers experience in their jobs were vividly remembered Wednesday at the ninth annual local law enforcement memorial service in Middletown that honored eight who died in the line of duty.
The somber half hour service drew about 100 members of police forces and family members of the fallen from throughout Northern Virginia. They came to hear speeches, an invocation and benediction, song and instrumental music paying tribute to those who died.
The lives remembered at the event were: Lt. William Patrick Farrell, Front Royal; Trooper H. Lee Henderson, Virginia State Police, Trooper Kevin Carter Manion, Virginia State Police; Sheriff James W. Newcome, Frederick County Sheriff's Office; Sheriff Luther Pannett, Frederick County Sheriff's Office; Sgt. Dennis M. Smedley, Front Royal; Sgt. Ricky L. Timbrook, Winchester and Trooper II Daniel Lee Williams, Virginia State Police.
"We can continue to honor and remember our fallen heroes by making a commitment to attend events like this memorial and must never forget the sacrifice they made," said David Vice, executive director of the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy. The event was held at the academy's Middletown campus.
Family members escorted by uniformed officers solemnly marched from their seats to the memorial wreath and placed small flags on it.
Keynote speaker Marty Williams, president of the state Fraternal Order of Police, said those who died and their colleagues among the living chose law enforcement as their jobs "not for money or fame but because we answered the call to service."
"American law enforcement officers face extraordinary risks," Williams said, citing a wide range of situations ranging from border patrol and traffic stops to breaking up drug rings.
Chief Richard H. Furr of the Front Royal Police Department was among those who deeply felt the loss of fallen officers with whom he worked closely early in his career.
"Sometimes it takes a department a long time to put a death in the line of duty behind them, depending on the circumstances," Furr said.
Furr, who is retiring after 30 years with the department, said he held an indelible memory of how news of Dennis Smedley's death unfolded not long after he joined the department in the early 1980s.
Smedley, who was Furr's shift supervisor, was to appear for the regular morning briefing before patrol officers were deployed for the day, Furr recalled.
While the officers waited for him to appear, lines on a telephone visible to those in the room lighted up, Furr said. At about the same time, a dispatcher shouted into the room an officer had been shot on 6th Street, Furr said.
Furr said he was among one of the first in the patrol room to arrive at the crime scene and see Smedley lying mortally wounded.
"He was a very good guy to work with," Furr recalled. "He encouraged me to advance my career in the police department. I learned a lot from him. He was a good mentor."
After two trials in which two defendants were acquitted, Smedley's killing remains unsolved.
Furr said he still hopes some new evidence will allow the investigation to be reopened by the Virginia State Police, the agency that is now in charge of tracking any new developments. The Fraternal Order of Police has offered a $25,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest and conviction, he said.
"I still think there's somebody out there who knows who did it," he said.
Furr said Smedley was gunned down outside his home, a grim lesson on the need for police to remain vigilant no matter where they are.
"You never know when your number is going to come up," Furr said.