Fallen officers remembered in San Antonio

By Vianna Davila
San Antonio Express-News 

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. — In a tribute to the fallen men and women of law enforcement, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus pledged Tuesday morning to continue training his officers to better protect themselves in dangerous situations, including resorting to deadly force when necessary.

"We need to make sure that we support our officers," McManus said at the National Peace Officers Memorial Day ceremony, held at the University of Texas at San Antonio's downtown campus.

Tuesday's event was part of National Police Week, a weeklong celebration and remembrance that began Sunday and end Friday morning with another memorial ceremony at the San Antonio Police Department's training academy.

Speaking before a small crowd, McManus emphasized that officers need to be properly trained and assured that their supervisors would support them when they make split-second decisions in life-threatening situations. He said many officers wounded in the line of duty have told him they hesitated to use deadly force because they feared administrative consequences.

"The last thing I want to see is an officer make a bad decision or not make a decision because they were afraid of getting in trouble," he said.

Several times in recent weeks, San Antonio police officers have resorted to deadly force because, officials said, suspects have acted aggressively toward them or refused to obey their commands.

Last year in Texas, 10 law enforcement officers were killed, including Beeville police officer Gregory Dean Stewart, who was shot during a robbery as he left a San Antonio nightclub last May. He died eight days later at University Hospital.

Officer John Wheeler was the most recent member of the San Antonio police force to lose his life while on duty. In October 2005, a drunken driver's vehicle crashed into Wheeler's patrol car. Both vehicles burst into flames, killing Wheeler and the other driver.

Tuesday's event focused mainly on the men and women in blue who guard the city's university and school campuses. In previous years, each school has held its own memorial ceremony. But this year they decided to gather as "one police family," said UTSA Police Chief David Hernandez.

"Today we especially recognize those heroes who have paid the ultimate price," Hernandez said.

Representatives from Trinity, St. Mary's and Our Lady of the Lake university police departments attended the event, as did other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and VIA Metropolitan Transit police.

Since the late 1700s, more than 17,900 U.S. law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Copyright 2007 San Antonio Express-News

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