Law enforcement agencies gather to remember fallen officers

Members of local law enforcement agencies gathered Thursday morning to pay tribute to officers who died in the line of duty over the past year.

The memorial service took place at Sunset Memorial Gardens and Funeral Home as it was part of National Police Memorial Week.

Odessa Police Department Chief Michael Gerke explained during the memorial service that this is the most important speech he gives every year and it’s the most important event he attends every year.

“We are honoring the memory of those people, those police officers, those law enforcement officials that have made the ultimate sacrifice,” Gerke said.

Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis echoed the importance of the memorial service.

“We are privileged to be here to honor those individuals,” Griffis said.

OPD Lt. Caleb Lacey announced the roll call of the 2020-2021 Texas Fallen Officers. There were a total of 89 officers detailed in the roll call. The final law enforcement officer listed in the program was Harris County Deputy Sheriff Alexander Gwosdz.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Gwosdz died from complications as the result of contracting COVID-19 in the line of duty. Gerke said COVID-19 has ripped through law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

The 2020 memorial service was held virtually due to COVID-19. Gerke said it’s great to get back to a slight form of normalcy that allows the memorial service to take place in-person.

“It’s nice to come back together again,” Gerke said. “It’s nice to see those people that we haven’t seen in a year.”

In addition to the 89 fallen officers, the nine local law enforcement officers that were honored were OPD Cpl. G.T. Toal, OPD Officer Scott Smith, OPD Cpl. Arlie Jones, OPD Cpl. Scott Gardner, OPD Cpl. Abel Marquez, Ector County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Thad West, Lubbock Police Department Officer Rodney Kendricks, Midland County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Michael Naylor and Midland Police Department Officer Nathan Heidelberg.