Fallen officers are honored, remembered

May 16—The lives of law enforcement officers who have fallen in the line of duty cannot be restored, but they can be honored through remembrance, according to Crawford County District Attorney Paula DiGiacomo.

DiGiacomo was the featured speaker in a solemn ceremony Wednesday at noon to mark the local observance of Peace Officers Memorial Day outside the Crawford County Courthouse in Meadville.

Pennsylvania had two officers killed in the line of duty in the past year — while less than a week ago an officer in a Cleveland suburb died in the line of duty, DiGiacomo said.

Sgt. Richard Mendez of Philadelphia Police Department was shot and killed Oct. 12, 2023, while investigating a suspect who had been caught breaking into a vehicle at the Philadelphia International Airport.

Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Jacques F. Rougeau Jr., a Corry native, was shot and killed June 17, 2023, while searching for a suspect wanted for the shooting and critically wounding of state police Lt. James Wagner in Juniata County.

Officer Jacob Derbin of Euclid Police Department in Ohio was shot and killed in an ambush Saturday night while responding to a domestic violence call.

Though many disregard and oppose law and order, the public needs to remember "all the positive things that police officers do on a daily basis to keep law and order and defend the innocent and protect the rights of law-abiding citizens," DiGiacomo said. "They don't just protect the innocent, they protect the rights of the accused under our Constitution.

"They go to work every day knowing that they could be an Officer Rougeau or Mendez or Derbin — and they still go," she added.

Those in law enforcement work to keep their communities safe from all types of crime — often while putting themselves at risk such as in situations that expose them to deadly toxins like fentanyl, the district attorney said.

But officers work positively in many ways the public doesn't see or experience first hand, according to DiGiacomo.

"They also go in to check on people who are troubled, who are overdosing on drugs, who are abused and neglected — be it young and old," she said. "They help those afflicted with mental illness when there is no one else there to help them."

Officers need not be discouraged as there is a majority that may be silent but who "respect, love and trust you," DiGiacomo told the officers and public in attendance.

Wednesday's brief ceremony had more than 20 law enforcement officers from various departments and agencies around the county in attendance as well as several dozen members of the public there to pay respects to the fallen.

"Over the past few years, communities have realized that good police are essential to a peaceful and safe community," DiGiacomo said. "So today, as we remember the fallen heroes of law enforcement, we also thank all of you brave men and women who keep Crawford County a safe place to live, work and raise a family."

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.