Hundreds gathered at the Capitol Grounds on Thursday to honor those who laid down their lives for the sake of the community.
Carson City hosted the 21st annual Law Enforcement Memorial ceremony to honor those Nevada law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty. The event was held at the Nevada Police Officer Memorial, where 132 fallen officers’ names are immortalized in stone. The ceremony comes at the start of National Police Week, which is held from May 13 to 19 each year.
“Through the years as governor, I have had the privilege and honor to be a part of this ceremony and every time I walk away with a deeper understanding of the job and sacrifice of law enforcement,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval. “We add two more names with eternal gratitude and heartfelt respect, our hearts go out to their friends, families and loved ones.”
The ceremony began with the presentation of the memorial run baton. The baton is run from Southern Nevada to Carson City the week leading up to the event. More than 600 law enforcement officers ran 132 legs to honor each of the officers represented on the memorial wall and the baton itself holds each of their names.
“We want to give thanks for the opportunity to remember all of the heroes on the memorial,” said Richard Snyder, memorial chaplain. “Let us be mindful of those who make the sacrifice to keep us safe and give thanks to those who still serve their community.”
This year, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Officer Charleston Vernon Hartfield was put on the memorial wall, after being killed during the October Route 91 massacre. National Park Service Ranger T.K. Brown, who died at Lake Mead in 1973, was also included on the list this year. Their names will join the other officers already etched into the memorial.
Hartfield was a decorated Army veteran who also served a tour in Iraq as well as enlisting in the Nevada National Guard during his work as a police officer.
“Every day that Charlie was alive he was a teacher of life lessons,” said Las Vegas Metro Sheriff Joseph Lombardo.
He talked about how Hartfield taught everyone three lessons in life: to find your purpose — as he did in the Army as a mentor; service to other — with his practice of “street preaching” as the bumper of a patrol car can be just like an empty church pew; and to inspire with your actions — as he did for his coworkers, football players and the kids he taught.
Lombardo and Sandoval repeated Hartfield’s favorite quote, that was written in his memoir: “To the world you may be only one person, but to one person you may be the world.”
“And Officer Hartfield personified that quote, the people he saved will never forget him and cherish his bravery and will always honor him,” Sandoval said.
National Park Service Chief Adam Kelsey also spoke, expressing his gratitude to the committee for adding Brown’s name to the list. Brown died during a Swift Water Rescue Training at Lake Mead where he was working to become a part of the Search and Rescue Team. He had previously served as a firefighter for 30 years.
“He was a giving man, he was public service through and through,” Kelsey said.
Sandoval also talked about how all of law enforcement came together during the Route 91 shooting, putting all of their lives on the line.
“In that instant, lives shattered, hearts were broken and panic set in and in the midst of everything, hundreds of brave souls like you ran toward it,” Sandoval said addressing the officers. “On or off duty, you came together to offer hope and safety. The actions of your brothers and sisters saved lives.”
Attorney General Adam Laxalt also spoke, expressing support for law enforcement who serve in the Battle Born state.
“These memorials are tough, they are challenging to get through but it is incredibly important for our state and law enforcement community,” Laxalt said. “We saw how easy it is for people to forget how important you are, how trying your job is and with increased scrutiny how much harder now it is.”
The ceremony ended with the presentation of the memorial wreath by the Honor Guard and the presentation of the folded U.S. flag. Typically the flag is to be given to the fallen officer’s family, however neither family could attend and they were given to their respective departments to be presented later to Hartfield’s and Brown’s families. The ceremony was closed with the 21 gun salute and taps.
“To all the men and women who are here who wear the uniform ... I don’t have the right words to thank you properly for keeping safe our cities and the state of Nevada,” Sandoval said.