Law Enforcement Memorial May 2010

May 13, 2010

Attorney General Janet T. Mills

Today, as lilacs spring forth on nearby saplings, as the cool night air departs and warm breezes usher in a spring in full bloom,…as the season of new birth livens our souls, today we take a solemn moment to think about our brave fellow citizens who departed this life in the course of their duty to protect and serve.

Eighty-two names engraved on these large stones. Eighty-two untimely deaths from 1808 to 2006. Eighty-two citizens who worked for us, who patrolled our roads, our woods, our lakes and bays.

Each had a life. Each had a family. Each had a duty. And each lost a life to that duty.

Elliott S. Johnson was on duty with the Thomaston Police Department in September 1973 when he got the call from Rockland to set up a roadblock to stop a stolen car driven at high speed by a prison inmate on furlough. Officer Johnson was killed instantly when the stolen car crashed into him, killing a passenger in the vehicle as well. Officer Johnson was 45 years old. He left a wife, three sons, three daughters, a stepson, a stepdaughter and several brothers and sisters.

Bill Hanrahan had been with the Warden Service for 15 years in November 1992. He had created the Warden Service’s K-9 team which has helped find and save so many children, seniors and hunters lost in the woods. He had been searching for a man in the Town of Starks when he collapsed and died of a heart attack. He was 49 years old. He lived in my town. He was a neighbor. He left a wife, three sons and a daughter.

Timothy Willard was only 22 years old. He was a probationary officer with the Paris Police Department in December 1978. He was investigating a suspicious individual outside a factory during work hours. The man was a distraught husband armed with a loaded handgun looking to kill his wife who worked there. When Tim confronted him, the man shot and killed Tim instead, and the man was shot and killed in turn by the owner of the factory. Timothy’s bravery saved the life of the woman in the factory and perhaps many others.

Charles Black was the first state police officer shot and killed in the line of duty. It was July 1964. He was only 28 years old. Trooper Black was in Berwick for a court matter when a pedestrian reported a bank robbery in progress. Trooper Black went immediately to the back door of the bank where he was met by the escaping robbers. He was shot 5 times before he could draw his weapon and return fire. He left a 5-year old and a 2-year old and a wife 9 months pregnant with their third son.

Trooper Jeffry Parola was 27 years old. He had been married only two years. In October 1994 he received the department’s award for bravery. Seventeen days later he responded to a tactical team’s call for help with a domestic disturbance. His cruiser struck a guardrail and was catapulted over an embankment, killing him.

Ralph Heath worked for the Baxter Park Service. A late October storm left a young hiker trapped on a ledge on Mt. Katahdin. Ranger Heath bravely attempted to rescue the young woman but fell to his death in the severe winds and blizzard conditions. His remains and those of the young hiker were found the following spring.

Paul Simard was 32 and was killed by a 14-year old runaway girl who had been shooting at passing cars. He left a wife and 2 young daughters back in July 1958. He was the first Lewiston officer killed in the line of duty…But he was not the last.

Young David Payne was killed by a fleeing felon high on cocaine in the woods of east Lewiston in the summer of 1988. The felon, gun reloaded, then threatened to kill two other officers when they caught up with him. It was an event which shocked the City of Lewiston and the broader law enforcement community.

In a twist of irony, one of the detectives who worked on David Payne’s case was Gil Landry, a state trooper about the same age as many of the officers standing in front of me. Gil was happy to become a detective and work in the District Attorney’s office. He was proud to have a new suit, to be in plain clothes, feeling safe to be off the road, to be helping children, victims of domestic violence and abuse. Safe, that is, until he went out to do his last interview and was shot through the heart, killed instantly by the target of his investigation. He left a wife and a daughter who was my youngest daughter’s age.

I still see Gil’s smiling face, standing streamside in a color photo, holding a prize smallmouth bass, as I miss him today.

The stories of these men in uniform and 73 others remind us that we are still a small town community. Each of these men was taking care of their neighbors, looking out for the safety of their town, just as all of you are committed to looking out for the people of Maine.

These men should not be remembered solely because they died or because of how they died. They should be remembered too for the thousand other daily acts of heroism and duty during their lifetimes—the lost children found, the theft spoiled, the assault prevented, the victim rescued, the crime solved, the burglary punished—the good deeds these men performed routinely, like a day in the life of every man and woman in uniform here today, done with courteous smiles and professional readiness, ever on call, always expecting the unexpected.

Our gratitude goes to every one of you, just as our reverence and solemn prayers go to them today.

So as the trees turn thick and green, as the warm grass cushions our feet and our busy days turn to planting and picnics, we take a quiet moment to remember those who cannot enjoy this lovely time, these 82 souls who have left us through tragedy and who have left a hole in our hearts. They did their duty. And today we reaffirm our resolve that they shall not have died in vain.

Thank you.