Fathers, sons, daughters all wearing badges for Oklahoma city
Ty McMahan, Staff Writer
Copyright 2006 The Daily Oklahoman
Officer Jeff Spruill and his father, Master Sgt. Larry Spruill
Oklahoma City police Sgt. Larry Spruill remembers looking out the front window of his home and seeing his 9-year-old son assembling the neighborhood kids in a police lineup.
“I wasn’t overly surprised when he became an officer a few years later,” Spruill said.
Larry Spruill, 47, and his son, Jeff Spruill, 26, are an example of one of Oklahoma City’s many cross-generational police families: Ten fathers and sons and two fathers and daughters work for the department.
The children of the men who have served Oklahoma City recount childhood stories of riding in their dad’s police car, visiting the police department and listening to their fathers’ tales of chasing bad guys.
Those children have grown and followed in the footsteps of their fathers’ shiny police shoes to chase today’s bad guys.
Sgt. Terry Harrison — 28 years with department Officer Jeremy Harrison — two years with department
Jeremy Harrison, 24, originally chose baseball as a career. He didn’t plan on being at the plate as a player — rather behind it — calling balls and strikes. Harrison was prepared to enroll in an umpiring school, but decided to play on his dad’s team as an Oklahoma City police officer. His job still allows him to judge right from wrong — similar to an umpire — only he’s making the calls in the community.
Sgt. Terry Harrison, 51, said he couldn’t be more proud about his son’s decision to trade baseball for a badge.
“It’s a big deal just to get into the academy,” Terry Harrison said. “Then he did so well. He was the top gun in his class. I was very proud.”
Jeremy Harrison said becoming a police officer was a wonderful choice. He said his job provides enough variety that every day is fun; working with his father makes the experience better.
“It’s something we can share,” Jeremy Harrison said. “Most people don’t get to have that and it’s really cool.”
Officer Kelly Dragus — five years with department Lt. Ron Keef — 26 years with department
Kelly Dragus needed the support of her family and fellow Oklahoma City police officers after her husband, Oklahoma City police Sgt. Jonathan Dragus, was killed late last year in a crash during a police chase. Her father, Lt. Ron Keef, can serve both roles.
“Police officers understand police officers,” Kelly Dragus said. “They understand each other and understand the job. It takes a special kind of person to understand what it’s like to go work a job in the middle of the night where there are risks.”
Kelly Dragus, 29, said she grew up listening to her father’s stories. All she ever wanted to be was a police officer, she said.
“I was a little shocked and very pleased when she said she wanted to be an officer,” Keef, 61, said. “One of the proudest moments of my life was when I got to pin that badge on her.”
The father and daughter said they miss being able to swap stories with Jonathan Dragus, but his death helped reveal the importance of their police family.
“I love the camaraderie,” Kelly Dragus said. “I already knew it growing up, but I’ve really got first-hand experience from everyone in the department. That’s what makes the job fun. All of your friends are in the department.”
Capt. Pat Byrne — 25 years with department Officer Shawn Byrne — four years with department
A routine traffic stop for officer Shawn Byrne turned into a gunbattle.
About 1:40 a.m. Feb. 3, 2004, Byrne, who had been an officer for about a year, saw a silver sedan driving erratically on northbound Interstate 44. He approached and was talking with the car’s occupants during a brief conversation when one of the occupants began shooting a handgun multiple times at the officer. Byrne retreated and the car sped off. Byrne jumped in his cruiser and a chase ensued. When the occupants fled the car and continued to shoot the handgun, Byrne shot back, killing one of them.
Other officers called his father to tell him about the incident.
“I think as a dad I first asked if he was OK,” Capt. Pat Byrne said. “Once I found out he was OK, I said, ‘Did you find the bad guys?’”
Shawn Byrne wears the medal of honor on his uniform for his police work. It’s the highest award given by the department.
Lt. Julie Pearson — 17 years with department Capt. Ray March — 23 years with department
Julie Pearson remembers police officers coming to her door to tell her that her father was shot during a gunbattle with two fugitives.
Nearly 10 years ago, while working as a security guard at the Continental Motel, SE 29 and Interstate 35, Ray March suffered three bullet wounds from men who allegedly were running a stolen property operation at the motel.
One bullet grazed his head, another hit him on the middle finger of his right hand and a third lodged in March’s hip.
“It was very, very scary,” Pearson said. “But once we could see him we knew everything would be all right.”
Despite that frightening experience for her father, a few years later Pearson, 41, became a police officer.
“I’m very proud of my daughter,” March, 62, said. “She has excelled at everything she has ever done.”
Pearson smiled at her father and said, “And we are always very proud of Dad. Sometimes I still have to call just to hear his voice.”
Kyle Kirby — one year with department Randy Kirby Sr. — 26 years with department Randy Kirby Jr. — three years with department
Three generations of Kirby men have worn the Oklahoma City police uniform.
Denver Kirby retired in 1978 and his son, Randy Kirby Sr., joined the force the next year. Now, Randy Kirby Jr. and Kyle Kirby serve the department.
“You sit around and listen to their stories and you think ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if I had some of those stories,’” Randy Kirby Jr. said. “It’s the greatest job in the world.”
Randy Kirby Sr. said he never pressured his sons to stay in the family business, but is glad they made the decision to become officers.
He said his youngest son, who is in high school, also plans to join the department.
“I’m an extremely proud father,” he said.
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