GONZALES — Law enforcement officials urged each other to continue dedicating their lives to protecting the public even as recent civil unrest and violence against police officers trends in the news.
The remarks came Friday during the Peace Officers Memorial ceremony at the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office training center in Gonzales, where officials gathered to honor the seven fallen law enforcement officers across the state who have died in the line of duty since last spring.
President John F. Kennedy began Peace Officer Memorial Week in 1962, with the event culminating on May 15 with a day to pay tribute to law enforcement officials who sacrificed their lives, said Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office Lt. David Martin.
Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley told the crowd law enforcement is under undue scrutiny from overzealous media and self-appointed victims who believe law enforcement is to blame for all of society’s problems.
“Do I resent this?” Wiley asked. “Yes, I do. Do I accept it? No, I don’t. Now, more than ever, this country needs you. It needs us. It needs you to be that thin blue line. That last line of defense between peace and anarchy. That last line of defense between safety and danger.”
Twenty-third Judicial District Attorney Ricky Babin urged the law enforcement officers gathered to not be detracted by murderers, thieves and rapists who would lead the world into chaos.
“This has been a pretty rough year for law enforcement,” said Babin. “I ask you, please keep the faith.”
Babin also instructed law enforcement officers to keep themselves safe.
“Controversial or not, please defend yourself from harm,” Babin said.
Just last week, two police officers in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, were shot to death during a traffic stop.
The seven law enforcement officers honored Friday were: Jeanerette Police Officer Juandre Gilliam; deputy U.S. Marshal Josie Wells; Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joe Warren; Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Rodney Condall; Ball Police Department Assistant Chief Carl Borderlon; Denham Springs Police Officer James E. Foster Jr.; and Vermillion Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Allen Bares Jr.
During the roll call for each fallen officer’s name, a member of the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office saluted a photo of the officer and then rang a bell to honor their memory.
Keynote speaker U.S. Marshal Kevin Harrison urged those gathered to remember Wells, a new member of Harrison’s federal task force, who died March 10 in Baton Rouge “at the hands of a coward hiding there who never even faced him,” Harrison said.
The suspect died at a hospital after being shot by police.
“He could have, should have and would have been a director of this agency,” Harrison said, of Wells. “No doubt in my mind. And this thug took it away from him.”
Wells left behind a wife and his unborn son who will be named after him, Harrison said.
“Take pride in what you do,” Harrison said. “Remember why you raised your right hand. Lastly, remember Josie Wells.”
The ceremony ended with U.S. Marines firing off a 21-gun salute and taps being played.
The Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office retired Lt. Will Brian then played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.