The U.S. flag was raised as sounds of "The Star-Spangled Banner," played by a trumpeter with the Tyler Police Department's Honor Guard, filled the air Monday at the annual Peace Officers Memorial Service in downtown Tyler.
Family members of fallen officers and members of area law enforcement held red roses and walked through a line of Tyler Police Honor Guard members. The roses were placed beneath the Smith County Peace Officers Memorial in honor of the 14 law enforcement officials killed in the line of duty across Smith County's history.
Vicki Terry-Lancaster approached the memorial and placed a rose in honor of her father's service to Smith County.
"I was 24-years-old when my father was killed in 1985," Mrs. Terry-Lancaster said. "He was a Smith County Sheriff's deputy."
Deputy Walter L. Terry was killed on Oct. 12, 1985.
"He was in the Army for 20 years," Terry-Lancaster said. "He came to the Tyler area after the Army to work here, where he was from."
Peace officers from Smith County placed 16 red roses on a wreath in recognition of the Texas law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty between May 15, 2016, and May 15, 2017. Smith County Sheriff's Office canine officers and Tyler Police Department canine officers placed white flowers on the wreath in honor of the police dogs killed in the line of duty this year.
The ceremony concluded with a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps as the flag was lowered to half-staff.
"We're glad to have the support of the community," Smith County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Robert Carlson said. "It's important to know theses officers' sacrifices so people can be safe in their communities."
President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 National Police Officers Memorial Day in 1963 - a day when law enforcement agencies across the country honor the lives and sacrifices of fallen police officers.
Each year, the names of officers killed in the line of duty are added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Tyler Police Department Public Information Officer Don Martin said officers from the department were in attendance at the National Peace Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Law Enforcement officials from Anderson County, including the Palestine Police Department, the Anderson County Sheriff's Office, Anderson County Constables and Frankston Police also honored fallen officers at the fallen officer's memorial on the corner of Avenue A and West Oak Street in Palestine.
"I hope events like this raise awareness to stop the violence against police officers," Ms. Terry-Lancaster said. "I hope it makes people thankful for the risks the police take to take care of our cities."
The National Police Officers Memorial Day annually coincides with National Police Week.
Fallen local officers include Smith County sheriff's deputies David Neal and James Holden, who were killed in a shootout Sept. 27, 1851, when family members attempted to break a man out of jail being held for attempted murder. Three other men were killed, and Sheriff John N. McKinley was seriously injured when he was attacked with an axe during the incident.
Sheriff's Deputy Duff G. Williams was shot and killed on Aug. 26, 1869, when two men assaulted the deputy with a double-barrel shotgun. He reportedly died instantly.
Other officers killed in the line of duty in Smith County include:
• According to reports, Sheriff's Deputy Marion D. Norton, a former Texas Ranger, had been in the jail on some business, and when he retrieved his pistol from a table, it dropped to the floor, killing him. The incident also was in the late 1800s. He was the son of a former district state judge.
• Tyler police officer M.J. Buie on June 26, 1946, was stabbed on a bus during a domestic dispute. He later died of his injuries.
• Tyler officer Burl Whittington, 24, was killed in a car wreck during a pursuit on Mother's Day in 1955.
• Tyler officer M.F. Nichol, 24, died from injuries he suffered in a wreck during a pursuit on Oct. 12, 1962.
• Tyler officer Eugene Vickers died shortly before 8 p.m. on March 29, 1963, when he was struck by a vehicle while investigating a traffic accident.
• FBI Special Agent Charles Brown was killed July 5, 1973, while he was en route to investigate a case. Brown's vehicle was crushed when a gasoline transporter overturned.
• DPS trooper Dan Higdon was killed in March 1983 during a traffic stop on Interstate 20 east of Farm-to-Market Road 2015. Higdon and another trooper stopped two tractor-trailers. One of the trucks rolled back and pinned Higdon and one of the truck drivers between the two trucks. Both men were killed.
• Smith County Sheriff's Deputy Walt Terry was killed in 1986 when he was thrown from his horse during a parade.
• Smith County Constable Dale David Geddie was shot to death when he answered a domestic dispute call on June 7, 2006.
• Smith County Deputy Robert Britton was killed by an injured cow while directing traffic on March 28, 2011.
- Cory McCoy