Military Police Officer, Former Ken. Police Officer, Killed in Iraq

Officer Down: OFFICER DARIN POTTER - [Louisville, Kentucky]

REBECCA YONKER, The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- A member of the Kentucky Army National Guard was killed in Iraq while supporting combat operations, the state Department of Military Affairs said.

National Guard officials said it was Kentucky's first Army National Guard combat death since the Vietnam War.

Sgt. Darrin K. Potter, 24, of Louisville, died Monday while serving with the 223rd Military Police Company.

He was part of a military police squad supporting elements of the 82nd Airborne Division. Other details of the death were not immediately available.

Lt. Col. Phil Miller, a National Guard spokesman, said Potter had been in the National Guard about five years.

Mark Miller, a Louisville attorney who was a friend of Potter's, said he met Potter about a year ago when he became his attorney, but they later developed a friendship. He said Potter called him frequently from Iraq and mailed him Iraqi money and a hat pin from an Iraqi police officer's hat.

"I have fond memories. He was a young kid. It was a shame," Mark Miller said.

Potter's father, David Potter, said Tuesday the family was grieving and wanted some time to deal with the news before talking about his son's death.

The U.S. Central Command reported that a soldier in a military police brigade was killed when a military vehicle overturned and became submerged in a canal near Abu Gareb Prison in Bagdhad Monday, but it was not clear if that soldier was Potter.

In that incident, military police soldiers were part of convoy responding to reports of a mortar attack. A vehicle carrying three soldiers went into the canal while attempting to make a turn. Two were able to swim to safety but a third soldier was trapped. During attempts to recover the body, a member of a dive team from the 82nd Airborne failed to resurface. The diver's body was recovered Tuesday.

Mark Miller, the attorney, said he was shocked and angry when he heard about Potter's death, "basically, feeling like what a shame that a young man like Darrin is lost when someone like an old lawyer like me is still kicking," he said. "Some of us were lucky to avoid conflicts in the Vietnam War lottery and others volunteer like Darrin. So it hurts. It hurts everybody."

Potter, a former Jefferson County police officer, had filed suit seeking to get his job back. He was looking forward to returning home to get the matter resolved, Mark Miller said.

Cheri Collett, a Louisville police officer who trained at the police academy with Potter, described him as outspoken, competitive, caring and intelligent.

"He was one of the smartest in the class," she said. "We would always go to him with questions."

But what struck her most was his caring nature. Collett said she couldn't run well because she injured her knee while training, but Potter wouldn't let her quit before finishing the 1 1/2-mile runs required at the academy.

"He ran the last laps with me, cheering me on to finish," she said.

Gov. Paul Patton also issued a statement on the soldier's death.

"Judi and I want to extend our condolences to Sergeant Potter's family," he said. "We are praying for them, as we pray for all of those who have gone in harm's way in service to our nation."

Phil Miller, the national guard spokesman, said Potter's unit had been serving in the Persian Gulf region since February. About 1,974 Kentucky National Guard personnel are on active duty, with about 200 of those serving in Iraq, he said.

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