WASHINGTON, D.C. (WJBF) – Three members of local law enforcement, killed in the line of duty, were honored during a virtual candlelight vigil as part of the National Law Enforcement Memorial’s annual Police Week Wednesday night.
Former Wagener, South Carolina Police Chief Mike Knotts was killed in the line of duty on September 20, 1925. According to Officer Down Memorial Page, Chief Knotts “was shot and killed as he attempted to arrest a man for being drunk and disruptive. The suspect, who had been arrested by Chief Knotts several times, declared that he would kill the chief if he ever tried to arrest him again. As Chief Knotts approached the suspect on a local street he pulled out a revolver he had concealed under his shirt and shot the chief through the heart. A short time later he surrendered to the Aiken County Sheriff.”
The suspect was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to seven to 14 years in the South Carolina Penitentiary on November 4th, 1925. A historical marker honoring Chief Knotts now stands at Toole’s Corner on the spot where he was killed.
Glascock County Sheriff’s Deputy Joshua “L.J.” Ryer, a graduate of Evans High School, was killed in a car crash in January of 2019 en route to the Regional Youth Detention Center in Washington, Georgia to pick up an inmate. His patrol car collided with another vehicle on January 29th at the intersection of Andrew Drive and Georgia Route 47.
Deputy Ryer was only 19 years old and had been with the Sheriff’s Office for just five months.
Veteran Richmond County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Cecil Ridley was killed on November 19, 2019. Ridley was shot and killed at the Augusta Mart at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. near 12th Street in Augusta.
He was with other members of the narcotics unit in response to gun violence in the area. They said they observed a group of individuals loitering in front of the convenience store and attempted to contact them.
Investigators say one of the subjects walked into the store but was approached by a deputy inside. They say that suspect, Alvin Hester, began walking back outside when he saw Investigator Ridley walking into the store. Hester immediately opened fire, striking Investigator Ridley, according to prosecutors.
They were three of the 307 names read during Wednesday night’s online observance.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial moved its annual candlelight vigil for officers who lost their lives in the line of duty to the internet for a virtual vigil.
“Due to COVID-19 this year’s memorial event could not be held on the National Mall,” said Marcia Ferranto, CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum.
Ako Cromwell lives in nearby Virginia. He’s a former Athens, Georgia police officer. He came to D.C. despite the pandemic to light a real candle of his own on behalf of families from Georgia and Alabama that couldn’t be there themselves.
“I’m sure for them it will be very emotional also, not having the opportunity to be here in person,” Cromwell said.
This year’s names were added to the memorial wall in time for the vigil, but no crowds were there to see them. Families who had hoped to attend the vigil in person said it was strange and sad not to be in D.C.
“I didn’t think it would hit me this hard not being there,” said Stacy Allan, who lost her husband, Lt. Aaron Allan with the Southport, Indiana Police Department, in July of 2017. She had her flights and hotel booked to be part of this years vigil.
“It’s heartbreaking. It’s sad. But being able to honor them I think has created a different platform, if you will, to kind of give them that virtual hug.”
Nexstar, Inc. Washington, D.C. Correspondent Kellie Myer contributed to this story