They died in the line of duty, in ambushes and automobile accidents. They gave their lives serving a high-risk warrant, trying to save an undercover informant and pursuing a suspect.
And on Friday, their brothers and sisters in East Baton Rouge Parish law enforcement paid tribute to their lasting service, remembering the police officers and sheriff’s deputies who have made the supreme sacrifice.
Dozens of family members, officers and onlookers attended a solemn ceremony at the west plaza of City Hall. The service, hosted annually by the Fraternal Order of Police Baton Rouge Lodge No. 1, coincides with Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week.
State Police held a similar memorial service Thursday, remembering the 26 troopers who have lost their lives in the line of duty since 1925.
Over the past 10 years, a law enforcement officer has been killed in the line of duty, on average, every 57 hours, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund. That includes 120 officers killed last year.
“We don’t do it for the glory, the money, or the honor, and a lot of times we don’t even get the respect,” Col. Lawrence McLeary, of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, said. “But we still (serve) regardless of weather, time and date, and it’s an honor to stand before you and say that the officers that gave their lives were friends to society.”
For the families of the fallen, the events underscore the support they receive from the law enforcement community. It’s further assurance that their loved ones will always be remembered.
“We get comfort in them not forgetting,” said Vicki Melancon, whose son Terry L. Melancon Jr., a four-year veteran of the Baton Rouge Police Department, was shot and killed Aug. 10, 2005, during a drug bust.
It was an emotional day for Provisional Police Chief Carl Dabadie, whose father, Lt. Carl R. Dabadie Sr., died April 6, 1984, in a motorcycle accident. The elder Dabadie had served the Baton Rouge Police Department for 26 years
“Being a son who followed in his hero’s footsteps, I know the fulfillment that he and these officers on this wall felt every time they battled evil in our society and brought peace and justice to the citizens of our community,” Dabadie said, fighting back tears at times.
It’s been more than three decades since Cpl. Michael W. Ritchie was shot by an armed robber at a 7-Eleven in Baker. Ritchie, an East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputy, had stopped at the convenience store on his way to work for a cup of coffee.
“It still hits us every year,” said Ritchie’s sister, Kim McLin, who attended Friday’s ceremony with her mother and sister. “It seems like it just happened yesterday. It’s still hard for us.”
McLin said she doesn’t know how she could have carried on without the support of Ritchie’s colleagues in blue.
“They’ve been there for us through everything,” she said.
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