Officers Gather to Remember Comrades; Ceremony Honored Law Enforcement Agents Who Died on the Job

Article excerpt

Byline: DEBORAH CEARNAL

Jurisdictional lines disappeared last week, as law enforcement officers from several agencies came together to honor comrades who died while performing their jobs.

"We are here to honor members of the law enforcement family," Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler said during the ceremony Thursday at the Middleburg substation.

Beseler made special mention of those from Clay County who have died: Sheriff Josephus Peeler, who was shot on May 10, 1894, while breaking up a fight; Sheriff Charles Wilson, who was shot July 10, 1906, by a suspect while he was trying to arrest him on a train; Sheriff Theodore Cherry, who was shot by a suspect during questioning on July 6, 1913; Sgt. Richard Watkins, who was killed in an auto accident as he followed an ambulance carrying a suicide victim on May 3, 1976; Auxiliary Deputy Arthur Caton, who died of a heart attack during drug traffic detail on July 15, 1979; Deputy Wilson Walker, who died on Dec. 17, 1994, of medical complications from materials he used as an evidence technician; and Sgt. Kenneth Hayes, who died on May 26, 2002, of a heart attack.

"I'm glad there aren't any more than we have," Beseler said.

A special guest was Angela Corey, an assistant state attorney in Duval County. She is with the gun crimes unit, which specializes in the investigation and prosecution of certain firearms-related crimes. Corey noted that though there were so many different agencies at the memorial, they are "all part of a huge law enforcement family."

She asked that all citizens respect all officers.

"People who criticize them don't know what they do," she said, noting how difficult and stressful an officer's job can be.

Among the crowd were Walter Cherry and his daughter Tina, both of Clay County, who are the grandson and great-granddaughter of Sheriff Cherry.

Also attending were Dorothy Peeler Thompson and her granddaughter, Heather Henderson, both of Jacksonville. Thompson is the great-granddaughter of Sheriff Peeler. Peeler's father and Bill Peeler's great-grandfather were brothers. Bill Peeler came to the ceremony from Suwannee County. Thompson and Bill Peeler never had met before this. They wound up chatting as if they were longtime friends at the meeting's end. …