Fallen Heroes Memorial May 5


By: Toni Lepeska

The blue bond is never stronger than when a law enforcement officer’s life is on the line – or when it is laid down in service to the community.

Each time the DeSoto County community memorializes officers who died in the line of duty, Lt. Jerald Wheeler feels that bond. It stretches between heaven and earth.

The next Fallen Heroes Memorial will be 10 a.m. May 5 at the DeSoto County Courthouse in Hernando. The public is invited.

If the weather is favorable, the ceremony will be held at the Public Safety Officers Memorial on the lawn, but inside if it rains. The names of eight law enforcement officers will be read.

“They didn’t get to go home that night,” said Wheeler, one of the event’s organizers. “They gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

As Wheeler reflects on the deaths of officers who died doing their jobs, he thinks especially of Lt. Billy Lance. Lance’s name is etched on the granite memorial. He was Wheeler’s boss.

They both were Southaven police officers in 1988. Lance was killed on fall evening that year. The 40-year-old stopped a getaway vehicle. As he was handcuffing an armed robbery suspect, the suspect’s girlfriend shot Lance.

The pair later went to prison for their crimes.

The Fallen Heroes event occurs 10 days before the nationally-observed Peace Officers Memorial Day. Years ago, DeSoto County officials decided to hold a local ceremony at a different time so people may attend it and ones held at the state capital or in the nation’s capital.

The local ceremony will include a 21-gun salute. Fire departments and other government agencies also will be represented. Sgt. Mitch Dunn with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is scheduled to give the keynote address.

The eight public safety officers who have fallen in the line of duty and the years they died are as follows:

Sheriff William P. Harris, 1912

Deputy Robert E. Dodson, 1936

Special deputy Larry Cox, 1970

Hernando patrolman Rory Welch Key, 1974

Deputy Larkin V. Pettit, 1981

Southaven Police Lt. James William “Billy” Lance, 1988

Mississippi Highway Patrol Trooper Bobby L. “Bubba” Wells Jr., 1995

Sheriff’s Lt. Gregory Floyd ‘Greg’ Medlin, 2003