Annual officer memorial service has special meaning this year

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Fallen law enforcement officers that died in the line of duty this year with both the Baton Rouge Police Department and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office were honored Tuesday at the Central Baptist Church.

An annual service to honor all Baton Rouge officers that have died in the line of duty is normally held near City Hall, but Mayor-president Sharon Weston Broome moved the service to a church this year.

"This church flooded, and so it was very symbolic in terms of recovery," Broome said. "I believe a place of worship is a good place for healing and for coming together as a community."

Four officers lost their lives this past year. BRPD Officers Matthew Gerald and Montrell Jackson, along with Sheriff's Deputy Brad Garafola, died in last July's ambush attack.

Sheriff Sid Gautreaux says this past year has been the biggest challenge of his 42-year career.

"To lose one is one too many," Gautreaux said. "But to lose one last summer, and then to lose Shawn this March, you know, coupled with the fact of all this pain and suffering, with what this community's gone through, it has been the toughest year for me."

BRPD Chief Carl Dabadie says his biggest concern has been the mental state of his officers, many of whom attended Tuesday's services. However, he believes they'll work through it.

"We all face this reality, we know that this is a possibility," Dabadie said. "We pray that it never happens, but we're prepared for it... and it never gets any easier."

After a series of speakers and moments of silence, family members of the fallen officers were given flowers. The ceremony closed with a performance of the song Amazing Grace by Central Baptist's Youth Choir.

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