By Craig W. Floyd
Reprinted with permission of the author and American Police Beat
As each of the 30 names was read, a bell tolled and a white dove was released to the sparkling sunlit sky. The solemn ceremony was held on the grounds of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
It was the 17th year that the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) has held the wreath laying ceremony honoring correctional officers who have made the supreme sacrifice. The ceremony has become the traditional kickoff event for National Correction Officer/Employee Week (May 4-10, 2008). A special tribute was given to those who served in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia, but the correctional officers killed in the line of duty nationwide in 2007 were also acknowledged and honored.
Keynote speaker Gary D. Maynard, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, made special mention of two of his officers who were brutally murdered by inmates in 2006.
Maryland Corrections Officer II Jeffery A. Wroten, 44, was shot to death on January 27, 2006, by an inmate in his custody at a local hospital;and Maryland Corrections Officer II David W. McGuinn, 42, was stabbed to death on July 25, 2006, while conducting a nightly prisoner count.
The story of Washington, D.C. Correctional Officer Ronald Richardson, 36, was also told. In November 1990, while on duty, he smelled a strange odor coming from one of the inmate's rooms at the halfway house where he was employed. He went in and discovered crack cocaine and a large amount of cash. The inmate involved then produced a gun, took Correctional Officer Richardson and another employee hostage, and made an escape.
The prisoner was soon recaptured and about a year later Officer Richardson was scheduled to testify against him in court. As he walked out to his car that morning, though, Ron Richardson was assassinated in his own driveway. A witness said she saw Officer Richardson lying face down behind his car as his wife kneeled over him. She could hear his wife screaming, "Get up. Don't die. Get up." But, it was not to be.
Ron Richardson died simply because he was a law enforcement officer doing his job, like so many other correctional officers before and after him.
The walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial contain the names of 527 correctional officers who died in the performance of duty. The first of those fatalities was William Bullard, a Missouri corrections professional who was beaten to death during an escape attempt on June 14, 1841. The most recent was Elizabeth G. Franklin, 54, who fell from the watch tower at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Alabama and died six days later on December 7, 2007.
Officer Franklin is one of 23 female corrections professionals to be killed in the line of duty and the second to die in 2007. Corrections Officer IV Susan L. Canfield, 59, of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice was killed during a prison escape on September 24, 2007. She was on horseback and supervising a group of inmates on a work detail when two inmates overpowered another officer, stole his weapon and then fled the scene in a pick-up truck. As they sped away, they ran over Officer Canfield and her horse, killing them both.
For 91 years, The District of Columbia had the distinction of being the only U.S. city to run its own prison system. Prisoners were housed at a large complex outside the City in Lorton, Virginia. The facility closed in 2001, but at the COG wreath laying ceremony, two of the correctional officers who lost their lives there were remembered. On February 13, 1958, Correctional Officer Michael G. Hughes was stabbed to death while trying to break up a fight between inmates. Fifteen years later, on November 30, 1973, Correctional Officer Michael Kirby was also stabbed to death. While walking to his post, he encountered two inmates who were engaged in illegal drug activity. After killing him, they stuffed his body inside an eight-foot deep manhole in one of the recreation yards.
Another of the officers honored at the COG wreath laying ceremony was Alexandria (VA) Deputy Sheriff William G. Truesdale. On a cold gray afternoon of January 27, 1981, Deputy Truesdale, 47, was escorting an inmate from the courthouse to the old city jail when the inmate attempted an escape. He managed to grab Deputy Truesdale's gun and shoot him in the chest. The inmate's getaway lasted just eight blocks before he was recaptured. Instead of simply serving out his sentence for a robbery charge, the inmate was executed in Virginia's electric chair for killing a law enforcement officer.
In addition to Officers Susan L. Canfield and Elizabeth G. Franklin, four other correctional officers were killed in the line of duty in 2007. New Jersey Senior Corrections Officer Cecil A. Smith Sr., 68, died on March 29 from complications following surgery for injuries he sustained when he fell from a truck while on duty. Macon County (MO) Deputy Sheriff David L. Gwin, 67, suffered a fatal heart attack on June 24 after being assaulted by an inmate while attempting to place him in the lock-up cell. Broward County (FL) Deputy Sheriff Paul Rein, 76, was shot and killed on November 7 while transporting a prisoner to court. The prisoner was already facing two life sentences for armed robbery and he was facing additional charges that day in court.
On June 25, 2007, Utah Corrections Officer Stephen R. Anderson, 61, was shot and killed by an inmate he had transported to the University of Utah Medical Center for an MRI test. As Officer Anderson released the shackles from the inmate's feet, the prisoner overpowered him, gained control of his service weapon and fatally shot him. The prisoner was recaptured after a 40-minute high speed car chase that ended after the escaped felon took hostages at gunpoint inside a fast-food restaurant. "I don't know that [the inmate] had this planned really well. I don't know that this was planned at all," Utah Department of Corrections Director Tom Patterson said. "A situation presented itself and he took advantage of it."
Mark Anderson, a cousin of the deceased corrections officer, said Stephen "loved working with people who had challenges. Many people have benefited from his care and his tenderness." He added that his cousin was very well respected by his colleagues "and, incredibly, by many of the prisoners as well."