Area law enforcement officials and government leaders gathered Tuesday morning in Martinsville City Council chambers to honor 10 officers from Martinsville and Henry County who have died in the line of duty.
The ceremony was a response to Police Week and Peace Officers’ Memorial Day, which is marked on May 15.
The service opened with Bishop Joe Gravely offering a prayer and Martinsville Police Chief Eddie Cassady welcoming a small group of families of the fallen along with interested citizens.
Cassady noted that 124 officers have died in the line of duty in 2021, 64 because of COVID-19 and 23 as the result of gunfire. Other causes of death included assault, automobile crash, heart attack, stabbing and being struck by a vehicular assault.
Statistics show that police deaths have been on the decline for decades even though the number of officers has grown significantly.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund cites the greatest number of law enforcement deaths occurred in 1930, when 307 officers died. Those numbers decreased after Prohibition but spiked again in 1970, 2001 and 2007.
Last year the leading cause of death among law enforcement was COVID-19, when the virus claimed the lives of 234 out of 362 officers who passed away.
Martinsville Mayor Kathy Lawson and Henry County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Debra Buchanan each read proclamations honoring the officers, followed by the entering of the color guard and reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Posting of the Colors was presented by members of the Martinsville Sheriff’s Office, Henry County Sheriff’s Office, Martinsville Police Department and Virginia State Police honor guards.
Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry read each of the names of the local officers killed in the line of duty followed by the ringing of a bell by David Cameron after each name was read.
A recording of “Taps” on the trumpet by Dylan Cochran and “Amazing Grace” by 1st Sgt. Michael McCann on the bagpipes were played.
Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper recognized the family members of the fallen who were in the audience, followed by a silent prayer and a closing prayer by Gravely.
A boxed lunch was served to each attendee as he or she left council chambers.
Local law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty:
- James Michael Phillippi, Virginia State Police, killed Jan. 11, 2014.
- Jonathan W. Bowling, Martinsville Police Department, killed Jan. 26, 2005.
- Charles Eugene Morris, VSP, killed 1962.
- Willis Herman Ferguson, Henry County Sheriff’s Office, killed 1975.
- George F. Carter, MPD, killed June 14, 1919.
- Paul Edward Grubb, HCSO, killed July 2, 1989.
- John Hughes Mitchell, HCSO, killed May 4, 1922.
- George Melvin Brown, HCSO, killed June 26, 1984.
- John J. Johnston, Fieldale Police Department, killed Jan. 27, 1945.
- George S. Frame, Bassett Police Department, killed March 18, 1923.