NORMAN — Heroes, foot soldiers, warriors, patriots, protectors and public servants: These were just some of the words used to describe law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty during this year’s Law Enforcement Memorial Service.
Co-hosted by the Norman Police Department and Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office, Friday’s afternoon service honored the sacrifices of several Cleveland County officers from 1912 to 1998.
NPD Chief Keith L. Humphrey, speaking at the event, said no matter the officer’s cause of death — be it because of gunfire, explosions or medical, vehicle or weather related — the 471 officers who have died in the line of duty in Oklahoma’s history of policing must never be forgotten.
While addressing the audience, Cleveland County Sheriff Joseph K. Lester referenced John 15:13.
“No greater sacrifice can you do than to lay your life down for another, and I commend those who did that,” Lester said.
Among those honored were Deputy William H. Abbott, Deputy Grover Fulkerson, Lt. Jerry W. Bratcher, Patrolman Melvin Miner, Rona Chafey and Sergeant Dale DeBerry.
Abbott, Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office deputy, died on Feb. 17, 1912, after being shot by a suspect while on duty on Feb. 14, 1912. He was 40 years old and was survived by a wife and eight children.
Caroline Abbott Mayfield, Abbott’s granddaughter, said she has been coming to the memorial service every year for about 10 years.
“It makes me extremely sad but I am very proud of him,” she said.
Fulkerson, Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy, was shot by a suspect while on duty on Aug. 24, 1917. He was 30 years old. On the night Fulkerson was killed, he was guarding the Canadian River Bridge against “Night Riders.”
Bratcher, Norman Police Department detective lieutenant, was killed in a traffic collision in rural east Norman while on duty on Nov. 24, 1963. He was 29 years old and was survived by his wife and three children.