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Jerald Wheeler, a reserve Sheriff’s Department deputy who organizes the annual DeSoto County Public Safety Officers Memorial service, stands with the monument with names of eight DeSoto County officers who died in the line of duty. This year’s service will be Friday, May 3 at 10 a.m.  

In front of the DeSoto County Courthouse in Hernando stands a monument to men who have given their all, literally, to protect and serve their community and county.

In just two short weeks, on Friday, May 3, beginning at 10 a.m., a memorial service will be held at that monument to again honor their sacrifice.

The DeSoto County Public Safety Officers Memorial on the Courthouse grounds has on it the names of eight officers whose “End of Watch” came to a tragic end.

The eight are as follows:

•DeSoto County Sheriff William P. Harris, who was shot at point-blank range in an attempt to serve a warrant in a cotton dispute, died in the line of duty on Nov. 25, 1912.

•Constable Robert Dodson, who died on Dec. 16, 1936 while serving a warrant on a man convicted of illegally selling liquor.

•Deputy Sheriff Larry Cox, who died Nov. 26, 1970 after being shot while making a traffic stop.

•Deputy Sheriff Larkin V. Pettit, who was shot and killed after responding to a domestic dispute.

•Hernando patrolman Rory W. Key, who died after being shot by a shoplifter on June 28, 1974.

•Southaven Police Lt. James W. Lance, who was shot on Oct. 7, 1988 after stopping a car believed to have been used in two robberies.

•Trooper Bobby L. Wells Jr., Mississippi Highway Patrol, who died June 27, 1995.

•Lt. Greg Medlin, who died after investigating a suspicious vehicle at a church shortly after midnight on Nov. 2, 2003.

Jerald Wheeler, a reserve deputy with the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department who organizes the annual service, said it will again include a 21-gun salute, and a ceremonial release of doves.

Wheeler said Hernando native, 1987 Hernando High School graduate, and now Mississippi Highway Patrol Lt. Col. Thomas Tuggle will be the keynote speaker for the memorial service.

Tuggle is now the executive director of the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers’ Training Academy, the largest training facility of its type in the state.

“He’s a hometown hero,” Wheeler said. “He has risen through the ranks of the Highway Patrol. He’s the same now as he was when he started in law enforcement.”

The former U.S. Marine Corps veteran is also a nine-time LawFit National Champion, four as a competitor and five as a coach.

The DeSoto County memorial service is annually held close to the National Peace Officers Memorial Day, which this year is set for Wednesday, May 15. The week on which May 15 falls on is designated as Police Week. American flags normally are flown at half-staff on May 15, as well.

Peace Officers Memorial Day was initially established by President John F. Kennedy and a National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall was erected, located in Washington, D.C. That has on it the names of more than 21,000 officers who have been killed in the line of duty.

“It was hard for us to go up there,” Wheeler said, “So, around 2002-2003, we put our memorial wall up, so that people here could actually go to it and we can honor the ones here that made the ultimate sacrifice.”

A number of the officers on the memorial in Hernando Wheeler said he knew, so it has a special significance to him.

“Trooper Wells has been gone for over 20 years and members of his family still come,” Wheeler said. “It’s still nice that they remember him, people know who he is and still talk about him.”

Following the service, a reception will be hosted by Boulevard Baptist Church in the Courthouse rotunda.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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