Friends, family, and fellow agents gathered among a fleet of police vehicles from every department in the county for the candlelight vigil, which takes place every year around National Peace Officer’s Memorial Day on May 15.
Hosted by the Fraternal Order of Police, the service included a poetry reading by Hope Norman, the daughter of a fallen officer, a 21-gun salute and a traditional riderless horse.
“The riderless horse is a symbol for a warrior who will ride no more,” explained Bobby Pierce, FOP vice president and the ceremony’s emcee.
Guest speaker Chuck Canterbury, the national head of the FOP, delivered solemn remarks to the packed audience about the pride and duties shared by all policemen. He recalled his own time in the service, and how he never gave a thought to the dangers he faced every day.
“It was not until I pinned my son’s badge on that I finally had a glance at what I’d put my family through,” he said.
Relatives of the deceased officers expressed appreciation for the annual service.
“They do a phenomenal job putting it together,” said Rhonda Sutherland, sister of Officer Steven M. Reeves, one of Thursday’s honorees. “They pay great tribute to them and honor them every year. Every year it means so much to us to be able to come here.”
Reeves was shot and killed during a Cobb County SWAT raid in 1999. Sutherland attended Thursday’s event with her daughters, Jessie, Ellie and Madison, along with Reeves’ wife and sons.
“He would make you proud at all times,” Sutherland said. “He was very loyal.”
Faith Norman describes her late husband, Officer J “Freddie” Norman II, as a joker with a perseverant streak.
“He was funny. He liked to tease,” Norman said of her husband, adding, “he was very determined.”
Freddie Norman was hit by a drunk driver while on duty 21 years ago, sustaining injuries that required him to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life. In 2009, he succumbed to his condition.
“He just wanted to get better,” Faith Norman explained, “and he never did.”
Community members turned out in large numbers to support the event, crowding onto every available bench and curb. Officials such as Solicitor General Barry Morgan and District Attorney Vic Reynolds stood beside the officers on stage, while Ann Harris, who is currently engaged in a runoff for a district judgeship, was in the audience.
But no group turned up in fuller force than the Cobb police officers themselves, who filled every corner of the Square in solidarity with their fallen brothers and sisters.
Chris Weese’s presence at the event was an example of the lasting bond between officers.
Her son, Officer Drew Brown, was killed in 1983 when a drunk driver rear-ended Brown’s patrol car.
Weese recalls how Brown’s lieutenant, Jimmy Stevens, reached out to her after her son died.
“He and Drew were friends, and when he got killed, Jimmy took care of me. For everything,” she said. “And that’s been 30 years now.”
Weese was once a regular attendee of the memorial, but after having a stroke, she found it difficult to make the trip. Stevens has since stepped up, she says, and helps her get to the service each year so she can honor her son. He even helped her make her way to the stage during the ceremony so she could place a rose in honor of her son on a memorial wreath.
More than 30 years after losing her son, Weese still relies on his lieutenant for comfort.
“Jimmy’s still my son,” she explained.
Cobb officers remembered in the ceremony included:
William L. Crowe, Acworth Police Department, date of death: Sat. Oct 23, 1954
John Hood, Cobb County Police Department, date of death: Sat. June 25, 1960
Gregory Mullinax, Austell Police Department, date of death: Sun. Feb. 8, 1981
Drew Brown, Cobb County Police Department, date of death: Sat. Dec. 17, 1983
Stacey Fuller, Smyrna Police Department, date of death: Fri. Nov. 16, 1984
Harvey Adams, Marietta Police Department, date of death: Wed. Sept 3, 1986
Donald Garrison, Cobb County Sheriff’s Department, date of death: Fri. April 27, 1990
Robert J. Ingram, Cobb County Police Department, date of death: Tues. July 13, 1993
Steven M. Reeves, Cobb County Police Department, date of death: Sat. July 24, 1999 (SWAT officer)
Stephen G. Gilner, Cobb County Police Department, date of death: Sat July 24, 1999 (SWAT officer)
Tara Drummond, Kennesaw Police Department, date of death: Tues. Sept. 13, 2005
Steven Raul Medeiros, Kennesaw State University Police Department, date of death: Fri. Sept 26, 2008
J. “Freddie” Norman II, Cobb County Police Department, date of death: Sat. Feb. 14, 2009