'Every call is dangerous': Vigil supports SWFL officers after police killings nationally

·3 min read

Uniformed officers flanked NAACP President James Muwakkil as he addressed law enforcement and community members from across Southwest Florida on Wednesday, pledging that they have their support.

The vigil comes days after New York state police officers Jason Rivera and Wilbert Moro were shot and killed in the line of duty.

Local law enforcement agencies and activists supporting the Lee County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gathered on the downtown Fort Myers U.S. Courthouse steps to honor those similarly killed.

"This is something that needed to be done, especially just recently with the deaths of the officers that were shot in Washington, as well as in Harlem, New York," said Jacquelyn McMiller, an executive committee woman and branch secretary of the NAACP in Lee County. "Even though we don't have a badge, we're sworn in to also protect them, as well as protect ourselves."

Members of local law enforcement agencies including the Fort Myers Police Department, The Cape Coral Police Department and others take part in a candlelight vigil at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Fort Myers on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. The local chapter of the NAACP held the vigil to honor officers that have died in the line of duty and to promote unity among law enforcement and the community. They held the event in light of the recent police shootings in New York.
Members of local law enforcement agencies including the Fort Myers Police Department, The Cape Coral Police Department and others take part in a candlelight vigil at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Fort Myers on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. The local chapter of the NAACP held the vigil to honor officers that have died in the line of duty and to promote unity among law enforcement and the community. They held the event in light of the recent police shootings in New York.

Making moves: Fort Myers Police Chief Derrick Diggs calls agency the most 'progressive in Florida'

More: First black officer to retire from the Fort Myers Police Department dies at 90

In honor

Rivera died Friday at the scene while Moro was pronounced dead Tuesday at New York University's Langone Medical Center.

Locally, Fort Myers Police Officer Adam Jobbers-Miller, died July 28, 2018. He was shot seven days earlier.

He's the third Fort Myers police officer killed in the line of duty since 2003. Officers Daniel Starks and Andrew Widman also lost their lives while on the job.

"I want to say to the people that believe in God, that once in a while, make a special prayer for our officers," said Israel Suarez, chaplain at the Fort Myers Police Department. "Our officers here in Lee County and the city are really dedicated and deserve the best."

Jobbers-Miller was responding to a call when Wisner Desmaret grabbed the officer's gun and shot him in the head July 21 during an altercation, police reports say.

In July, an attorney working on the case told Lee County Judge Robert J. Branning that he intends to rely on an insanity defense for Desmaret.

Desmaret's next court appearance is March 1, when he's scheduled to have a pretrial conference.

Diversity progress

As part of the NAACP, McMiller also hinted at the progress at the Lee County Sheriff's Office in terms of diversity.

Last week, Travis Hicks became the first Black man to run the Internal Affairs Division at the county's sheriff's office. Likewise, Nora Galloway became the first Hispanic woman to serve as a lieutenant.

"That's a huge step," McMiller said regarding the promotions. "As long as we're progressing and doing that, we can definitely grow and that's just the first step; but there needs to be a continuance of that."

The Rev. Israel Suarez, a chaplain for the Fort Myers Police Department says a prayer during a candlelight vigil to honor law enforcement at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Fort Myers on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. The local chapter of the NAACP held the vigil to promote unity among law enforcement and the community. They held the event in light of the recent police shootings in New York. Behind Suarez is James Muwakkil, president of the local chapter of the NAACP along with members of the Fort Myers Police Department including Deputy Chief Jeffrey Meyers (holding candle) and other law enforcement agencies.
The Rev. Israel Suarez, a chaplain for the Fort Myers Police Department says a prayer during a candlelight vigil to honor law enforcement at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Fort Myers on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. The local chapter of the NAACP held the vigil to promote unity among law enforcement and the community. They held the event in light of the recent police shootings in New York. Behind Suarez is James Muwakkil, president of the local chapter of the NAACP along with members of the Fort Myers Police Department including Deputy Chief Jeffrey Meyers (holding candle) and other law enforcement agencies.

Other activists present at the vigil echoed McMiller while calling for local law enforcement to diversify their upper management.

"That has to be an important step," said James Muwakkil, president of the Lee County NAACP. "That we continue to look at ways that us as citizens can support law enforcement, and then have law enforcement support us in the same amount of protection ... but we have to make them feel protected as well."

Fort Myers Police Chief Derrick Diggs, who signed his first contract as chief in 2016, is Black.

Members of local law enforcement agencies including the Fort Myers Police Department, The Cape Coral Police Department and others take part in a candlelight vigil at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Fort Myers on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. The local chapter of the NAACP held the vigil to promote unity among law enforcement and the community. They held the event in light of the recent police shootings in New York.  On the far right is James Muwakkil, president of the local chapter of the NAACP.
Members of local law enforcement agencies including the Fort Myers Police Department, The Cape Coral Police Department and others take part in a candlelight vigil at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Fort Myers on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. The local chapter of the NAACP held the vigil to promote unity among law enforcement and the community. They held the event in light of the recent police shootings in New York. On the far right is James Muwakkil, president of the local chapter of the NAACP.

The Fort Myers Police Department joined other local law enforcement agencies, including Cape Coral Police Department and the sheriff's office, at the vigil.

"We just always have to provide our officers with the most advanced training there is, and just remind them to always be vigilant," Fort Myers Police Department spokesperson Kristin Capuzzi said. "Every call is dangerous."

Tomas Rodriguez is a Breaking/Live News Reporter for The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. You can reach Tomas at TRodriguez@gannett.com or 772-333-5501. Follow him on Twitter @TomasFRoBeltran.

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Fort Myers police, activists remember, honor fallen police officers

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting