Fallen officers' names added to wall of honor

The hot summer morning of Aug. 16, 2012, is forever imprinted in the memories of local law enforcement officials.

That is the day that St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Deputies Brandon Nielsen and Jeremy Triche were gunned down in an ambush at a LaPlace trailer park following the shooting of another deputy.

And on a glorious spring evening in Metairie on Wednesday, they were remembered and their names were imprinted on the state’s memorial to its fallen officers.

Under the blaze of an eternal flame, families of the fallen and hundreds of officers from throughout the state gathered to remember the four police officers who died in the line of duty in the past year at the 12th annual Louisiana Law Enforcement Officers Memorial at Lake Lawn Funeral Home in Metairie.

The hour-long event featured all of the pomp and pageantry of law enforcement tradition. There was an honor guard procession performed by men and women from 10 different agencies, a helicopter flyover by the Jefferson Parish Flight Operations, a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps.

Afterward, family members lit candles and gathered around the granite monument on the lawn of the landmark funeral home, which honors all Louisiana officers who have died in the line of duty.

This year, the names of Nielsen and Triche along with the names of Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Randall Lee Benoit and Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Rickey Isaac Jr., both of whom were killed in separate traffic accidents, were added to the stone walls of the monument, which was erected in 2002.

Six historical deaths were added as well: Howard Evans, Jr., Zwolle Police Department, April 24, 2009; Sample Toms, Bienville Parish Sheriff’s Office, Nov. 16, 1926; William Shoemaker, Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, Oct. 27, 1906; Christopher Goodwill, Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office, May 28, 1901; and John Stout, a U.S. Customs Service agent who was killed while trying to capture the notorious pirate Jean Lafitte in 1814.

Next week, those names also will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., as part of Police Week.

Nielsen, 34, and Triche, 27, were killed by a group of alleged domestic terrorists belonging to the group Sovereign Citizens. Two other deputies, Michael Scott Boyington and Jason Triche (no relation to Jeremy) were wounded. Six suspects were arrested that day. Three remain in custody awaiting trial.

Nielsen had been a law enforcement officer for 14 years, serving in St. John, St. Charles and Jefferson Parishes, among others. He was a “motor man,” a motorcycle officer who regularly rode escorts for wedding and funeral processions and even presidential details.

Triche was a four-year veteran of the St. John Sheriff’s Office in the Canine Division.

It has only been eight months since the shootings and the families of the deputies were still distraught over the loss of their loved ones.

“I like to cherish the memories of my husband being alive,” said Daniell Nielsen, Brandon’s widow, who was accompanied by her four children; Nielsen’s parents, Steve and Wendy Nielsen; and many friends.

“I know the next week is going to be a lot, surrounded by how he died. But I don’t want his name ever to be forgotten,” Daniell Nielsen said. “It’s kind of bittersweet, the fact that he’s not here. I’d rather his name not be on something and him be standing next to it.”

In his remarks to the crowd, St. John Sheriff Mike Tregre promised that his fallen officers never will be forgotten.

“Because I am and forever will be a fellow law enforcement officer, I will never forget the sacrifice they made,” Tregre told the crowd. “Because I am the sheriff of St. John Parish, I will make sure that our department and our community never will forget them.”

Bonnie Martin Russell, whose husband Chris Wayne Russell was killed in 2002, delivered the survivors’ keynote address, telling the families that there is life after their loved one’s death.

“It’s not how they died that made them heroes,” she said, quoting the words etched on the monument. “It’s how they lived.”