Remembrance: Police pause to honor the fallen
May 10—More than 100 residents showed up at the Terre Haute Police Department on Wednesday morning to honor fallen officers from throughout the city and county's history in a solemn city-county ceremony presided over by city police Chief Shawn Keen.
Mayor Duke Bennett read a proclamation naming May 15-21 Police Week in Terre Haute, followed by Keen and Vigo County Sheriff John Plasse reading the names of 14 police officers and six sheriff's deputies who had perished in the line of duty. The circumstances surrounding their demise were explained.
An honor guard then replaced the U.S. flag outside the department with solemn formality. A lone bugler played taps, which was followed by a 21-shot rifle volley.
Both Plasse and Keen served on the city force with three of the officers whose names were read: Brent Long, killed in 2011, Robert Pitts, killed in 2018 and Greg Ferency, killed in an ambush in 2021.
"Those are just one of your worst days ever," Plasse said. "I was with Rob when he was killed, and to lose a friend like that is devastating. He was killed on May 4 and [the annual memorial ceremony] was a few days later, so it was really fresh.
"When I got to his name [when reading the list], I paused for several seconds — I couldn't say anything."
Keen said he finds the ceremony an emotional experience.
"I was a part of the honor guard early on in my career — it was always important to me, but the last 12 years — losing three people that I worked with — has given it even more meaning to me," he said. "I'm not just reading names of people I didn't know. I'm reading names of friends and people we've lost recently.
"For those of us who knew these people closely, it's harder," he said.
Keen paid tribute to the men.
"All of them were great," he said. "I can't say enough — they were all brave, they were overachievers, all of them, whether it was Brent with K9, Rob with the Marshal Services, Greg with training and the FBI task force."
Keen concluded, "They were leaders among police leaders. That's what they did, and they stood out."
Statues of officers Long and Pitts stand upon pedestals outside the police department. After the ceremony, Ferency's daughter Payton told Keen that the family would be seeing Bill Wolfe's sculpture of the fallen officer for the first time on Friday.
After the family approves it, it heads to a foundry and will be completed in two months.
"It would be great if it would be done by July, in time for his [death's] anniversary," Keen said.
Plasse said he appreciated the healthy public turnout to honor the fallen officers.
"It's important to remember who gave their lives for the community," he said. "To show their families that their lives meant something that we'll never forget."
David Kronke can be reached at 812-231-4232 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.