Ceremony honors local officers killed in the line of duty

Steve Garrison The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Law enforcement officers from across the region gathered at the All Veterans Memorial Plaza here Friday to remember local men and women who have died in the line of duty.

The ceremony was opened by the posting of colors and the reading of scripture by Farmington police Officer Reyes Flores.

Flores said law enforcement officers express an "agape love," or sacrificial love, for their communities through service. He said God ordained law enforcement, citing Romans 13:1.

Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts said the ceremony offered the community an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifice made by law enforcement officers.

"All we can do as civilians is continue to hold up those that lost their lives in the line of duty as the best examples of honesty, integrity, trustworthiness and community service," he said.

Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe spoke of the perceived increase in criticism of police since a highly publicized shooting incident in Ferguson, Mo.

"The extreme views held by many people nationwide hurt me," he said.

The chief said the men and women who serve in law enforcement come from all walks of life, but devote themselves to the safety of their communities.

"To the family of the fallen: I thank you for your sacrifice and promise that we cannot, and will not, forget," he said.

The keynote speaker, retired Marine Sgt. Maj. Leonard Maldonado, delivered a speech on the nature of service. He also thanked the family members of officers killed in the line of duty, many of whom, including the family of Navajo police officer Alex Yazzie, were in attendance Friday.

"To the families of those that have been lost, I thank you for sharing such wonderful human beings with the rest of us," he said.

Several speakers touched on Yazzie's death March 19 during a shootout in Red Valley, Ariz. Yazzie was the seventh officer to die in the line of duty in the region since Officer Ben Herrera's death in 1962.

The other fallen officers honored were Farmington police Lt. Owen Landdeck, Bloomfield police Officer Wayne Stedman Jr., New Mexico State Police officers David Smith and Lowell Howard, Farmington community service Officer Vicky Chavez and Farmington police Sgt. James Thode.

Marenda Yazzie, the mother of three of Alex Yazzie's children, tearfully hugged Navajo police Officer James Hale following the ceremony. Hale and a second officer, Herbert Frazier, were injured during the confrontation with suspect Justin Fowler in Red Valley. Fowler, 26, was killed in the shootout.

Marenda Yazzie said the ceremony brought back memories of Alex Yazzie's funeral.

"I'm still in shock to this day, knowing that he will never come back to me and the kids," she said.

Several officers greeted Hale after the ceremony and thanked him for his sacrifice. Hale lost a portion of his right leg in the shootout and used a crutch to move around the plaza Friday.

Hale said his health is good, considering what happened on March 19.

"I am doing good and getting a lot of support from my fellow officers," he said.

Despite his injuries, he said he would like to return to active duty.

"I am hoping," he said.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and stgarrison@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.