Tuesday, May 15, 2007

19th Annual Candlelight Vigil Honors 382 Officers

19th Annual Candlelight Vigil honors 382 officers, including 145 from 2006

Washington, DC - As thousands of people held lit candles in their honor, the names of 145 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty during 2006 were dedicated on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Sunday night in Washington, DC. The names of an additional 237 officers who died in previous years dating back to 1827 were also dedicated during the 19th Annual Candlelight Vigil.

Thirty-seven states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico all lost officers during 2006. California, with 16, had the most officers killed in the line of duty last year, followed by Virginia (10), Florida and Texas (9 each), and Illinois (8). Five law enforcement officers from federal agencies and two from the military also died last year. There are now 17,917 fallen law enforcement officers whose names are engraved on the Memorial.

US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales delivered the keynote address and led the reading of the names of the 382 officers being dedicated on the Memorial. During the ceremony, Craig W. Floyd, Chairman of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, introduced Tyler Minicozzi, a boy from Reading, PA, as an example of how Americans can honor their law enforcement officers. When Reading Police Officer Scott Wertz was shot and killed in the parking lot of a convenience store last August while pursuing a suspect, 9-year-old Tyler set up a lemonade stand with the goal of raising $1,000 for the officer's wife and two children. Reaching that goal in two days, Tyler went on to raise $5,283.16 in the first week.

"Tyler's story provides tremendous hope and inspiration to all of the survivors here tonight," said Mr. Floyd. "I hope Tyler will inspire many others to follow his lead and to ensure that the service and sacrifice of our law enforcement heroes are never forgotten."

Dedicated in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial permanently records and commemorates the service and sacrifice of America's law enforcement officers. The Candlelight Vigil serves to kick off National Police Week — a time to remember all law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty and to salute the 800,000 officers still serving in federal, state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide.

The number of officers killed in the line of duty last year declined nearly 8 percent from 2005, when there were 157 officer deaths. The 2006 figure was the lowest annual total since 1999, when 143 officers were lost.

For the ninth year in a row, traffic-related incidents claimed the lives of more officers last year (73) than shootings (52) or any other cause of death. This is a reversal of historical trends, in which most officers killed in the line of duty were shot. The number of officers killed in traffic incidents rose 16 percent last year.

Of the 237 historical cases added to the Memorial this year, 39 date from the 19th Century. The oldest case is Watchman Gerrard Arnold of the Alexandria (VA) Police Department, who was beaten to death in September 1827.

For the list of officers added this year to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, click here.

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