LONDON — Thursday’s ceremony to honor Ohio peace officers who died in the line of duty in 2015 held a close focus on three officers, but the village of Danville and the family of Thomas Cottrell were woven into the fabric of the ceremony.
The ceremony opened as family members walked through the memorial, past the eternal flame. This included Tanya Rayburn, Cottrell’s life partner, and his daughters, Courtney, Brooklyn and Alycia. His mother, Melissa Osborn, was also in attendance.
Cottrell will be recognized in the 2017 ceremony when his name will be revealed on the memorial wall.
The Danville Police Department, represented by Sgt. Chad Lishness and officers Josh Abshire and Mark Perkins, participated in a motorcade that traveled from the Fraternal Order of Police offices in downtown Columbus to the training academy in London prior to the ceremony.
“On Jan. 17, 2016, Officer Thomas Cottrell of the Danville Police Department was ambushed behind the village offices. Officer Cottrell’s death left his daughters without a father, his team without a coach. A new normal began that night,” said Fayette County Sheriff Vernon P. Stanforth.
The “new normal,” he said, sweeps through families, communities and police departments when an officer comes to the end of his or her watch.
“Since January of this year, 33 law enforcement officers across this country have died in the line of duty. Each of their families began a new normal, as did the agencies they work for,” Stanforth said. “Cleaning out the clothes closet at home or the locker at work, taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, reassigning caseloads, what to do with his desk, what to do with his cruiser, what are we going to do with his gun belt? Even the simple things … the little things that they did every day, now becomes a new normal that we have to adjust to.”
Despite the sudden, abrupt change that comes when an officer dies in the line of duty, Stanforth offered comfort and compassion to families that continue to grieve over the loss of their loved one.
“It is our hope today, that we may in some way, be a valued part of your new journey; that we may help in some way in finding your path to a new normal. Your loved one’s name will be inscribed on this memorial wall, a mere token of our everlasting dedication to the memory of their sacrifice. We consecrate this ground with an eternal flame, not to end a journey, but to light your way on this journey. … May this place, be the beginning of your new normal.”
Attorney General Mike DeWine shared a quote from a eulogy describing one of the fallen officers honored Thursday.
“United by purpose, committed to the safety and well being of others, and selflessly standing in the gap between good and evil,” DeWine quoted.
“Few phrases more accurately describe a peace officer’s position than that — ‘selflessly standing in the gap between good and evil.’ The instant that gap shifts and claims a peace officer as a casualty, we come to understand the potential cost implied in the pledge ‘to serve and protect.’” Recognized during Thursday’s Ohio Peace Officer Memorial Ceremony were:
•Deputy Michael A. Brandle, 33, of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, who died after suffering a heart attack on May 21, 2015, during sniper training.
•Cincinnati Police Department Officer Sunny L. Kim, 48, died June 19, 2015, when he exchanged gunfire with a man brandishing a weapon on a residential street.
•Officer Nathan J. Van Oort Sr., Ohio University Police Department, was seriously injured in 2006 after participating in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics when a shelter he was having lunch in was struck by lightning. Officer Van Oort never recovered from his injuries and died on Nov. 7, 2015, at the age of 53.
Recognized for Historical Induction was Alfred Knight of the B&O Railroad Police Department, who died Sept. 15, 1927, after inspecting a box car containing three unauthorized men, one of which began shooting at Knight and his partner.
New to the ceremony was recognition of K-9 officers, including the Toledo Police Department’s K-9 Falco. The 2year-old was able to sniff out a suspect fleeing a stolen vehicle only to be fatally shot by the suspect on Aug. 12, 2015. Historical K-9 Inductions included K-9 Bandit, Cincinnati Police Department, April 16, 1987; K9 Cero, Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office, March 25, 2000; K-9 Bungee, New Albany Police Department, May 25, 2011; and K-9 Andy, Vermillion Police Department, June 26, 2012.
A new K-9 plaque was unveiled Thursday and will be displayed in the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.