Several hundred law enforcement officers and supporters gathered on the State Capitol steps on Monday to pray.
“It’s tempting to take their commitment and sacrifice for granted,” Gov. Bobby Jindal told the crowd, less than 24 hours after a Kentucky state trooper was gunned down during a routine traffic stop. “We ask for God’s protection and blessing.”
“We cannot thank our officers and their families enough,” he added.
Nine Louisiana law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty this year. In response, Jindal declared that Monday would be a statewide day of prayer for law enforcement.
“What we’re celebrating today is not how they died, but how they lived,” State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said. “Today is a celebration of life.”
Shreveport police officer Thomas LaValley, 29, was answering a call about a suspicious person when he was shot multiple times.
“My son was just trying to help a family,” his mother, Jackie LaValley, said after the rally while holding a framed photo of her slain son in his police uniform.
Jackie LaValley said she was moved that so many people came out to pray for law enforcement and was touched by kind words Jindal said to her privately before the event.
“His words were really heartfelt,” she said.
“Knowing that there are a lot of residents who would come out to pray for the officers ...,” a visibly moved LaValley said, trailing off. “This needs to happen more.”
The event was not overtly political but drew several candidates for elected office.
Jindal, who is running for president, mingled through the crowd after reading the names of each of the nine officers who have died. “Be safe!” he told police officers and sheriff’s deputies.
This year, Louisiana has already had more on-duty officer deaths than any single year in at least a decade.
Several high-profile law enforcement deaths this year have drawn national attention to the issue.
“It’s an unfortunate time in our society when we have to issue a prayer for the safety of law enforcement,” said Grayson Police Chief Mitch Bratton, who serves as president of the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police.