Midland Police Department Chief Seth Herman said he’s reminded every day of Nathan Hayden Heidelberg.
On Friday at Sunset Memorial Gardens and Funeral Home, Herman escorted Heidelberg’s parents to place the final yellow rose on wreath to honor fallen officers in the Permian Basin and throughout Texas.
Herman said after the ceremony, which was part of National Police Week, the memories he shared with Heidelberg will stay with him throughout the rest of his life.
“It’s like losing a close family member,” Herman said. “He’s my brother. Just like with the death of any family member, there are little things that remind you of (Heidelberg). There’s parts of the police department when I walk through I remember times I spent speaking with (Heidelberg).
“I never want to forget (Heidelberg). I never will forget him, but I really want to remember is the person he was and the sacrifice he made.”
Heidelberg was the last peace officer killed in the line of duty in the Odessa-Midland area.
Friday’s memorial service honored nine peace officers from the Permian Basin and 16 — 12 officers and four K9’s — throughout Texas.
The five from Odessa Police Department are Cpls. Abel Marquez, Arlie Jones, Scott Gardner, Gordon Terry Toal and officer Scott Stanton Smith. Ector County Sheriff’s Office honored Deputy Sheriff Thad Dewitt West, Midland County Sheriff’s Office remembered Sgt. Michael Joe Naylor, while MPD honored Heidelberg. Lubbock Police Department was also in attendance to honor patrolman Rodney Raylyn Kendricks, who is buried in Odessa.
Odessa Police Department Chief Michael Gerke was a detective in 2007 when Marquez, Jones and Gardner were shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call.
“You could be driving along and you will have that little remembrance of one of them,” Gerke said about Marquez, Jones and Gardner. “You smile or tear up a little bit. You never forget those types of bonds.”
The 12 officers throughout Texas that were killed in the line of duty were Senior Special Agent Paul Scott Ragsdale, Wayland Baptist University Chief Lonnie Verdell Burton and Cumby Police Department officer Jarrod Kyle Friddle. Dallas Police Department Cpl. Earl James “Jamie” Givens III, Fort Worth Police Department Cpl. Garrett Willis Hull and Real County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sheriff Mark Cox were also remembered.
Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sheriff Raymond Bradley Jimmerson, Waller County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sheriff Loren Yalith Vasquez and United States Marshals Office supervisory deputy Norman Merkel were honored. Comal County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sheriff Ray Elwin Horn III, Border Patrol Agent Donna Doss and El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sheriff Peter Herrera were remembered.
The four K9’s honored were Grunt and Nell from Refugio County Sheriff’s Office, Kastor of the Waco Police Department and Chuck from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office.
Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis had a scare at the beginning of the year when three of his deputies — Josh Pool, Cody Smith and Ricky Rodriguez — were shot while serving a narcotics search warrant on Jan. 14 at 7321 Kentucky Ave.
Pool and Rodriguez were each shot in the left leg, while Smith had a bullet graze the left side of his lip. Pool and Smith have returned to active duty, while Rodriguez is a reserve deputy as he transitioned to the private sector.
“I got a phone call at 9:46 p.m. (Jan. 14) and I’ll never forget it. My heart stopped,” Griffis said. “We are a family. We spend more time at work together than we spend at home with our families. My heart stopped and I went start to the hospital to make sure our guys were OK. Once I found they were OK, I went into a room by myself and prayed to the good lord.”
Gerke said it’s positive to honor the lives of the fallen officers, because he knows those peace officers have shaped many lives.
“As police officers, we tell what we call ‘War Stories’ and these are stories that have happened to us throughout our career,” Gerke said. “It can be sad or funny. You remember your departed coworkers in that way.
“To me, that’s an honor to them. I hope at some point when I’m gone people have some nice words to say about me. That would probably be the highest honor that I could ever receive.”