Scripture reminds us that “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13) And so it is with members of the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office who sacrificed their lives so that citizens of Washington Parish can live in peace.
A campaign promise to honor a fallen hero, Deputy Sheriff Oneal Moore, evolved into a day of celebration to honor the memories of seven Sheriff’s Office officers who made the ultimate sacrifice. Sheriff Randy Seal will sponsor a Fallen Heroes Memorial Day on Wednesday, May 15. The ceremony will begin on the courthouse steps and then move to the lobby of the Sheriff’s Office where a Fallen Heroes Memorial will be unveiled. A bronze plaque honoring each fallen officer will be unveiled and remain on permanent display as a testimony to the sacrifices made by a few for all of us.
Since 1899, seven Washington Parish officers have been killed.
On April 7, 1899, Sheriff Henry S. Burkhalter, age 45, was riding with a posse in search of murder suspects when he was accidentally shot and killed by one of his own deputies. Sheriff Burkhalter was survived by his wife and six children.
The next deaths occurred twenty-four years later when two deputy sheriffs were killed while attempting to arrest two men for making moonshine. One of the suspects produced a handgun and shot and killed Deputy Sheriff Wiley Pierce, age 42, and Deputy Sheriff Robert Wesley Crain, age 35. The deputies were shot on March 3, 1923, the two men were convicted of murder on March 23, 1923, and one of the men was hanged on August 31, 1923. Deputy Pierce was survived by his wife and six children. Deputy Crain was survived by his wife and four children.
Eleven years later, on July 21, 1934, Deputy Sheriff Delos C. Wood, age 61, was shot and killed while attempting to arrest a man at the man’s home. The man was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, but before the sentence could be carried out, an angry mob stormed the jail and shot him to death. Deputy Wood was survived by his wife.
No other line of duty deaths occurred for the next thirty-one years, until Deputy Sheriff Oneal Moore, age 34, was ambushed and killed while on patrol, a tragic event which focused the attention of the world on Washington Parish. On June 2, 1965, a pickup truck pulled alongside the patrol car and an occupant in the bed of the truck shot and killed Deputy Moore and seriously injured his partner, Deputy Creed Rogers. This is a unique case in that Deputy Moore was the first black deputy in Washington Parish, two men were arrested as suspects but never tried, and the murder was investigated by the FBI which assigned the case in 2009 to its Civil Rights Era Cold Case Initiative. As of this date, no one has been tried for this horrendous crime. Deputy Moore was survived by his wife and four daughters.
Forty years passed before the death of Deputy Sheriff Jeffery Bickham, age 43, on September 20, 2005. Deputy Bickham was killed when he was pinned between his patrol car and another vehicle. He was survived by his wife and two daughters.
On December 6, 2006, Deputy Sheriff Yvonne Pettit was on duty when she was shot and killed by her estranged husband who then was shot and killed by Deputy Pettit’s partner. She was survived by five children.
More details about the deaths of these fine officers can be found online at www.odmp.org.
Sheriff Seal stated, “It has been an honor to develop this memorial for the fine officers who sacrificed their lives on behalf of all citizens of Washington Parish. Donations have come in from inside and outside of Washington Parish to make this possible. I pray that the Fallen Heroes Memorial will provide comfort and healing not only to the families of these fine officers but also to all citizens of our beloved parish. I personally invite each person to join me in this solemn celebration of the lives of our Fallen Heroes.”
The public is encouraged to attend the May 15 event at 10:00 a.m. This will be a special time for all to gather in memory of those who laid down their lives for their friends.