By Alyssa Schnugg
The annual Police Officer Memorial Ceremony was held Thursday on the north lawn of the Lafayette County Courthouse. Each year, officers from local, state and federal offices gather with citizens to remember those police officers who died in the past year.
The Oxford, Lafayette and University police departments reported no deaths or serious injuries in the past year, as did the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.
U.S. Marshal Danny McKendrick read the names of 11 federal officers who were killed in the line of duty across the nation.
Guest speaker, U.S Marshal Gulf Coast Task Force Commander Mike Quarles spoke about the 1901 murders of U.S. Marshals Hugh and John Montgomery who were burned to death by bootleggers, William Mathis and Orlando Lester. The two men were later caught and hanged for the murders near the Lafayette County Courthouse. It was the last public hanging in Oxford.
He spoke of a more recent police officer death, the murder of Biloxi Police Officer Robert McKeithen, who was killed earlier this month.
“In the last five months, I’ve responded to four ‘Officer Down’ calls,” Quarles said. “The threat is real and so is the evil.”
The ceremony is put on each year by the Lafayette County Law Enforcement Officer Association. President Bo Prince said some days the weight of being a law enforcement officer can sometimes be a heavy one.
“But with the support of our community, our family and friends, that weight can feel so much lighter,” Prince said.
Pastor Fish Robinson opened the ceremony with a prayer. Megan McDonald sang the national anthem and Madison Jenkins played taps at the end of the ceremony.
The OPD Mounted Patrol presented a “riderless horse,” representing those officers in the last year who would “ride no more,” after giving their lives in the line of duty. Following, the OPD Honor Guard performed a 21-gun salute.