Mood somber as fallen LSP troopers remembered

In spite of blustery winds and a brief drizzle, more than two dozen tiny flames burned Wednesday evening at State Police headquarters in memory of each trooper who died in the line of duty over the last century.

Booming bagpipes, the traditional accompaniment to law enforcement memorial services, established early the somber mood of the annual ceremony, which for the first time was held in the evening to include the lighting of 27 white candles, each serving to memorialize a fallen trooper.

“He wanted to be a state trooper his entire life,” Linda Henry said of her brother, Trooper Donald C. Cleveland, who was fatally shot while conducting a traffic stop near Lafayette more than 35 years ago.

Henry remembered her brother’s unbridled dedication, honor and duty to fulfilling his life’s dream for what she described as an agency of the utmost dignity.

“He was very proud to wear the badge,” Henry said, adding that the annual ceremony, which she began attending in 2010, “means so much” to her family.

At least 50 friends and family members of fallen troopers gathered as dusk neared to remember their loved ones at the ceremony, which featured a three-helicopter fly-over and a three-volley salute.

Held during National Police Week, the ceremony also called for remembrance of more than 100 officers who died in the line of duty in 2013, including four from Louisiana, said Capt. Doug Cain, master of ceremonies at the memorial.

Retired Trooper 1st Class Joseph Kendall arrived early and brought red roses to set in front of the plaque memorializing his father, DPS Cpl. Johnny Kendall, also a retired State Police sergeant, who died in a car crash while on his way home from work in August 2011.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better father,” Kendall said.

Johnny Kendall was the most recent State Police officer to die in the line of duty.

Nevertheless, this year’s ceremony did include the addition of a new name to the list of fallen troopers — a name that could have been added to it more than 80 years ago.

Several years ago, Jahneen McBrayer began trying to find out the fate of her uncle, who died years before she was born. But it wasn’t until an associate told her to try old newspaper archives that she was shown a front page story that ran in The Times-Picayune in August 1932.

The story was about her uncle, Highway Patrol Officer Geronimo C. Trevino, who was in his 30s at the time. It described how he was fatally struck and killed by a vehicle as he sat on his motorcycle speaking to someone on the side of the road in Orleans Parish during a traffic stop.

Once she learned his manner of death, she enlisted the help of her son-in-law, Capt. Patrick McLaney, of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, to put her in contact with the right people at State Police so Trevino could be properly remembered.

After the ceremony and while standing alongside her daughter, Michele McLaney, McBrayer said of her uncle, “he finally got his due.”

Follow Ben Wallace on Twitter @_BenWallace.