WASHINGTON – During a national memorial service for fallen officers last week, Vice President Joe Biden spoke of the bravery of two heroes from Arkansas who did not hesitate when duty called.
With the U.S. Capitol behind him, Biden delivered keynote remarks to the mothers, fathers, wives, husbands and children of the fallen as well as hundreds of officers from across the nation attending the memorial.
In praising the fallen heroes, Biden recalled the bravery of Scott County Sheriff Cody Carpenter and Wildlife Officer Joel Campora who drowned while assisting victims of an overnight flash flood along the Fourche Lefave River in Arkansas last May.
“Jumping into flooded waters … not one of them hesitated,” Biden said.
He did not mention their names but there was no doubt who he meant – at least not for the widows of Campora and Carpenter in attendance at the memorial service.
“It hit really close,” said Amie Carpenter after the ceremony.
Rebecca Campora said she appreciated that Biden had taken time to get to know at least some of the stories behind the more than 100 officers who died in the line of duty in 2013.
“This wasn’t just a canned speech,” she said.
A National Peace Officers Memorial Service is held every May 15 at the U.S. Capitol to honor those who lost their life in the line of duty in the previous year. The memorial service culminates a week-long commemoration that also includes a candlelight vigil at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
The names of nine fallen officers from Arkansas were added to the memorial this week – six who died in 2013 and three others. Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and John Boozman, R-Ark., also issued statements this week to honor the Arkansas officers.
Theresa Johnson of Clarksville was overwhelmed by the attention she and other family survivors received during the week.
“We were met at the airport with escort officers and then had a motorcade to the hotel. They blocked intersections and traffic would be stopped and there were officers standing and saluting. It was amazing,” she said.
Her husband, Larry Johnson, was director of the Fifth Judicial District Drug Task Force. He died last March after suffering a heart attack while chasing a suspect.
“To hear his name called today and see all these people I know he didn’t die in vain and he will be remembered,” Theresa Johnson said.
The nine Arkansans whose names were added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial aside from Campora, Carpenter and Johnson were:
- Conway Police Officer William McGary who died in February after being hit by an intoxicated driver while directing traffic at the scene of an accident.
- Sebastian County deputy Terry Johnson who died in March in a car accident.
- Faulkner County deputy Hans Fifer died in April of a heart attack while trying out with the agency’s SWAT team. Fifer was survived by his wife Sherah and their two children, Allianna and Kadence. Harents are Kim and Janet Fifer of North Little Rock; a sister, Erin Shearon of Maumelle and brother, Joseph Fifer of Baton Rouge among many other family members.
- Fayetteville Assistant Police Chief Elmo Ritchie died in October 1968 after suffering a heart attack while attempting to place an individual in custody.
- Texarkana patrolman Richard Choate who died after being shot six times by robbery suspect in May 1922.
- And, Constable Will Dalton of Rogers who was shot and killed attempting to arrest to robbery suspects ion January 1891.
Peter Urban writes for the Stephens Washington Bureau