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Remembering our fallen heroes

Posted: May 8, 2017 5:35 p.m.
Updated: May 9, 2017 1:00 a.m.

On April 25, our city council and mayor pro tem Deborah H. Davis proclaimed the week of May 14-20, 2017, as Police Week in the city of Camden. This is a great honor to the Camden Police Department as well as to officers nationwide. Many local governments make this proclamation annually in unison with the national proclamation which was first initiated by President John F. Kennedy in 1962. Then, President Kennedy designated May 15 of every year to be “Peace Officers Memorial Day,” and the week in which that date falls as "Police Week." Law Enforcement across the nation honors May 15 as a day to remember the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their communities in the line of duty.  We also hold dear to us the surviving family members our fallen officers have left behind.  

This job is more than just a career: it really is a “way of life.” Law enforcement is a heartfelt calling to make a difference.  It changes the way a person lives, because everything eventually revolves around policing and the fact that it’s a 24/7 duty. Adding to the list of small, everyday sacrifices looms the presence of the ultimate sacrifice: the possibility that you may lose your life trying to help another.  All of this makes May 15 an important day for us; we are privileged to have city council, and our community, share that sentiment.  

This year, we were proud to host the 2017 FLET-C Long Law Enforcement United Memorial Bike ride which arrived on May 3 and departed early on May 4.  About 45 law enforcement and supporting riders came through to spend the night before continuing on, eventually arriving at their Roanoke, Va. destination. These riders hold fast to the legacy of our fallen officers and culminate their rides with the L.E. Memorial Service on May 15 at our nation’s capital.  

Kershaw County has seen nine law enforcement officers lose their lives in the line of duty since 1919. Two of those heroes were from the Camden Police Department. I'd like to take a moment to honor their memory with you now. On January 24, 1919, 30-year police veteran Patrolman Robert Latta was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance during which a man was trying to kill his wife. Officer Latta left behind a wife and children as he made the ultimate sacrifice while responding to this type of call, which unfortunately continues to take officers’ lives even today.  

On July 10, 2000, Corporal F. Eddie Catoe was killed when his patrol car broadsided a truck that ran a stop sign. Officer Catoe left behind a son, step-son, wife and other family members.  

I'd also like to honor the following fallen officers: Constable Jesse Fletcher, on duty in Kershaw County, End of Watch: Friday, July 18, 1919.  

From the Kershaw County Sheriff's Department: Deputy Sheriff Theodore Turner, EOW: Thursday, April 29, 1971; Captain Pat Orr, EOW: Monday, July 2, 1973; Deputy Sheriff Earnest Christian Potter, III, EOW: Thursday, February 21, 1974.  All four above were killed by gunfire. In our more recent past, we lost School Resource Officer Deputy Rob Evans after he suffered a massive heart attack while directing traffic outside of Wateree Elementary School. Deputy Evans died on November 27, 2013.   

I have and always will hold with deep love, honor, and respect the legacy of law enforcement's fallen brothers and sisters; I've been in this field for over 40 years and it means a lot to me. This coming Police Week also holds one of my long-term employees and her family in my heart. Records Administrator, Evidence Custodian and TAC Operator Gayle Pitts has been with the department for some time. She's a civilian employee, but as I tell my officers, she's tasked with the duty of “policing the police” for me. She keeps us in line, proofs our legal paperwork, and ensures we are all taken care of. Gayle's first husband and high school sweetheart was S.C. Trooper H. Merl Godbold.  Trooper Godbold was killed in the line of duty when his cruiser was struck by a drunk driver as he was responding to help another officer on February 28, 1992.  As the spouse of a fallen officer, Gayle continued to honor his legacy by first, coming to work with law enforcement and then, initiating the Godbold Memorial Ride in her late husband's honor. That memorial ride raised funds for scholarships of Kershaw County teens going into public service and youth in need. Gayle worked to raise awareness against drunk driving and in support of law enforcement. 

Tragedy struck again, though, as on September 19, 2009, Trooper Jonathan Shea Nash was struck by a vehicle and killed as he rode his motorcycle in the Godbold Memorial Ride. Though the Godbold Memorial Ride rested with Trooper Nash, Gayle continues to serve the city of Camden.  Keep her, too, in your prayers this coming May 15.  

Each of the officers remembered had a story of life, hope and love. Each of the officers left behind family and friends. Each of the officer’s stories is connected by a common thread; they were both warriors and guardians of the citizens of Kershaw County.  And each made the ultimate sacrifice of giving up their life in a final act of guardianship. On behalf of the Camden Police Department, I invite you to stop by the police department any time to visit, ask questions, or to pick up a commemorative COPS Blue Ribbon to display in support of your law enforcement guardianship this May 15, through Police Week, and in the coming year. 

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