Hilliard Northwest News

Local police honor the fallen during national observance

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Deputy Chief Bobby Fisher of the Hilliard Division of Police bows his head during the city's observance of National Peace Officers Memorial Day on May 15 at First Responders Park in Old Hilliard.

With the tolling of a bell and placement of a wreath, the Hilliard Division of Police on May 15 honored and memorialized three Ohio police officers killed in the line of duty in the past year.

May 15 was National Peace Officers Memorial Day, which Hilliard police observed at First Responders Park.

Police Chief Doug Francis said "those who carry the torch of justice are of an uncommon good."

"They run to the vicious and the violent, and the vulnerable and the weak," he said.

Francis called police the county's "domestic shield" and while officers almost always return safety home to loved ones, they also can "be called to make the supreme sacrifice."

The three officers Hilliard police memorialized May 15 were: Officer Jason Edward Gresko of the Willoughby Police Department, killed Sept. 21, 2012; Officer Michael Figueroa of the Cleveland Division of Police, killed Nov. 4, 2012; and Cpl. Phil Brown of the Fayette County Sheriff's Office, killed April 17.

Gresko and Brown died from injuries sustained in automobile crashes while on duty; Figueroa died after collapsing while on duty at Cleveland's airport.

Lt. Robert Parkey rang a nickel-plated bell a single time as Francis read each name and an "end of watch" date.

Francis and Parkey placed a memorial wreath at the park for the three officers and all those who have been killed in the line of duty.

Francis said about 19,000 names of known police officers killed in the history of the United States are etched on the wall of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., to which the three Ohio officers were added this year.

Francis called it a "somber privilege" to perform the honor and told onlookers he chose Parkey to assist him at this year's ceremony. Parkey will retire June 7 after more than 33 years of service to the Hilliard Division of Police.

Mayor Don Schonhardt also addressed those gathered for the ceremony.

"It is truly an honor to be here," said Schonhardt, adding that the "acts of courage and bravery" police regularly perform "can't be quantified."

The Rev. Doyle Jackson offered the invocation and benediction, Irion Mitchell performed The Star-Spangled Banner, Ohio State Highway Patrol Sgt. Kelly Weakley played taps and Norwich Township firefighter Mike Reiterman performed Amazing Grace on bagpipes as part of the annual ceremony held at the park since it opened in 2010.