On the same day funeral plans were being set for the fourth officer to be shot and killed in the line of duty in the Capital City in the last eight months, law enforcement officers from across the state were honored for acts of kindness ranging from buying clothes for a baby whose mother had just been arrested to helping a homeless family find a home.
About 150 members of law enforcement were present in uniform with a black band across their badges in memory of East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputy Sgt. Shawn Anderson, 43, who was killed Saturday night in Baton Rouge while investigating a rape allegation.
Baton Rouge resident Linda Hull was inspired last year to organize the nonprofit Beyond the Badge, which put on the Heart of Law Enforcement Awards ceremony to honor officers who have gone beyond the call of duty.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said that Louisiana needed to celebrate and highlight acts of kindness by law enforcement “now more than ever,” saying there have been too many instances of officers being killed in the line of duty.
Baton Rouge and especially the law enforcement community are still reeling from the deaths of the four officers. Anderson was killed when he and another deputy went to a hair salon to question a suspect in the rape of a 15-year-old girl. Anderson ended up getting into a struggle with Brandon Wiley, 30, the suspect. During the struggle, a gun was fired and both Wiley and Anderson were shot. Anderson died at a hospital that night and Wiley died Tuesday night, State Police said.
Three officers were killed July 17 in an ambush that left three other officers wounded.
East Baton Rouge Parish Deputy Brad Garafola and Baton Rouge police officers Matthew Gerald and Montrell Jackson were shot and killed July 17 by a former U.S. Marine from Kansas City, Missouri.
“Somehow we have got to come together,” Edwards said. “Prayer is always going to be part of it … but through our actions as well as through the way that we serve as role models for members of the public, we have to do better.”
Hull agreed, saying that at a time when so much "negative attention has been directed toward law enforcement in general, I thought someone needed to honor all the officers who go beyond the call of duty."
Ten officers received the Heart of Law Enforcement award and one received the stand-out Service Before Self award. Recipients were given a framed certificate and a framed flag that was flown over the State Capitol building for a day in their honor.
New Orleans Police Department officer Shantell Howard said she thought the organization was mistaken when they called her to say she won the Service Before Self award. Howard has spent the last five years cooking a "soul food" Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless.
In November, she came to Baton Rouge to cook the dinner instead of in New Orleans.
"When I came out here to Baton Rouge to do this, I just wanted to do something for the community because I know a lot has been going on in Baton Rouge," she said, referring to the July shootings deaths of of the three officers.
Edwards presented Baton Rouge resident Vickie Williams-Tillman with a bouquet of roses in recognition for her act of kindness after she assisted a police officer who was being attacked by a suspect.
Baton Rouge Police Cpl. Billy Aime believes his Good Samaritan and new friend, 56-year-old V…
Baton Rouge Police Department Chief Carl Dabadie said that the awards were even more meaningful because they were coming from the community.
“I think it also helps in bridging that gap between law enforcement and the community,” Dabadie said.
Nominations for the awards can be made by anyone, Hull said. Dabadie said that the nominations for the two Baton Rouge police officers who were recognized came from the community.
Casey Rayborn Hicks, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, serves on the advisory committee of the organization. She said she considers Anderson an everyday hero like the others recognized on Tuesday.
“The sheriff has often said that in terms of law enforcement, sometimes they’re the first to be called, the first to arrive, the first to be criticized, but the last to be recognized,” Hicks said.
Hicks called Anderson an everyday hero and said she has received many messages sharing stories of his kindness on and off the job.
Heart of Law Enforcement Awards:
- Baton Rouge Police Department Officer Henry Briggs: Briggs assisted a homeless man and his family to find a new home in time for the holidays.
- Lafayette Police Department Cpls. Robin Green and Todd Green: The couple spent 18 hours evacuating residents from flooded homes in August in their private boat and then volunteered to work at a local shelter.
- Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Dan Herman: The lieutenant declined time off to handle his own flooded home in order to help his community.
- Mansfield Police Department Chief Cary Hobbs: The chief created an annual Christmas project that has provided children and senior citizens with holiday gifts since 2006.
- Lafayette Police Department Sgt. Randal Leger: Leger was caught on camera purchasing lunch for a homeless woman and has also done other projects to assist the homeless.
- Lafayette Police Department Cpl. Michael Middlebrook: Before workers at a local convenience store empty the shelves of expired items, Middlebrook collects them and distributed them to those in need.
- Krotz Springs Police Department officer George Morrison: In order to help a group of truckers with a broken down vehicle at 1 a.m., Morrison let them use his personal vehicle to go get the necessary batteries to fix the truck.
- Baton Rouge Police Department Officer Hue Pham: Pham purchased clothing for a baby on a cold day when the child’s mother was being arrested and stayed at the hospital with the child.
- Louisiana State Police Master Trooper Hershel Smith: After learning that a young boy in Vernon Parish never had a bicycle, Smith bought him his very own bike.