Fallen officer’s family looks back five years after ambush
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - When Baton Rouge Police Officer Matthew Gerald left this earth in 2016, he left behind one final gift, an unborn son with his wife, Dechia. Now four-years-old, Faylon Gerald is a sweet little boy and the spitting image of his dad. His mom says the only thing she can claim are Faylon’s wide brown eyes.
“Matt used to be very witty and could make someone laugh in a second and he’s that kid. He’s that type of kid,” said Dechia Gerald.
Mathew Gerald was among the three law enforcement officers gunned down in the line of duty outside a gas station in Baton Rouge in 2016. Three other officers were badly hurt in the ambush that devastated the community. Gerald left behind his wife, a 3-year-old daughter Fynleigh, and 9-year-old stepdaughter Dawclyn. At the time, Dechia Gerald didn’t realize she was pregnant with Matthew’s second child. When the baby boy arrived, Gerald’s police family immediately called Faylon “Baby Buttons” to honor his dad’s nickname on the force. His mom called him a miracle.
Dechia says they talk about Matthew every day, and his photos are a constant reminder of the man they loved. Watching her kids grow up without him, is bittersweet.
“It’s a blessing, but when you hit those milestones that dad’s missing is a gut check. It’s hard for you,” said Dechia. “You want to be happy, but I catch myself sometime holding back tears because there’s a lot of things he’s missed.”
However, life goes on even if the grief remains at times. While they keep Matthew’s memory close, they opened their hearts to let their family grow, welcoming a new baby brother and a step-dad to be. Dechia is studying to start a new career, and her oldest daughter is now a teenager about to start high school.
While every July is hard, a month marked by what would have been the Gerald’s anniversary as well as his death, Dechia says she likes to give back when the grief comes in. This year that included bringing her horses for some pet therapy for the National Police Wives Association which met in Baton Rouge. One of the group’s goals is bridging the gap between law enforcement and the community, something else Dechia is still passionate about.
“If you see a police officer or a first responder in general, please stop and say thank you and you appreciate them,” she said.
Together with the Association, Dechia will take part in a memorial walk on Saturday, July 17, to mark the ambush anniversary. The walk is open to the public and starts at 8 am, at the B-Quick gas station on Airline Highway.
“The last 5 years have been hard but I want to thank the community for the love and support that they’ve given us over the years,” said Dechia.
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