By Tamas Mondovics
Every year the members of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, citizens and families of the fallen gather on the campus of the Malcolm E. Beard Sheriff’s Operations Center in Ybor City for a solemn ceremony honoring local deputies who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
This year was no different as a large crowd joined Sheriff David Gee and his command staff at HCSO’s Law Enforcement Memorial, which was created to commemorate and pay tribute to the 16 members of HCSO who have fallen in their quest to “Serve and Protect.”
The memorial was built four years ago to ensure that the memories of these law enforcement officers are never forgotten and is now encompassing the Sheriff’s Memorial and Fallen Heroes Wall.
“This is how we remember our guys,” Gee said. “This is important to the families of those we lost and it is a way to showcase what this community is all about. It is the fabric of the Sheriff’s office.”
Gee added that during his four decade long career he remembers many of those who were lost in the line of duty.
Last year, Deputy John R. Kotfila, Jr.’s name had to be added to the list of deputies who were killed in the line of duty, raising the number to 16, since 1874, when Deputy Richard Roach was shot and killed at his home in the suburbs of Tampa.
Roach’s murder has never been solved.
Sheriff David Gee emphasized what the memorial does for the community when he said, “This ceremony pays tribute to a lot of heroes who deserve it. This Wall of Heroes Memorial is a sacred place for us. We want to thank the community for their support.”
Gee added that coming out to visit the memorial is a way for Hillsborough County residents to contribute.
“People need to know and understand the sacrifices of what these deputies and law enforcement members are doing,” he said.
For more information about the memorial or the Sheriff’s Office please visit www.hcso.tampa.fl.us.
Sheriff’s deputies who have lost their lives in the line of duty since 1874 are:
Deputy Richard Roach, 1848 – August 15, 1874
Deputy William E. Whitehurst, 1870 – July 4, 1893
Deputy Ed Aulick, April 18, 1901 – January 24, 1932
Deputy Robert M. Suarez, June 8, 1904 – September 3, 1944
Sergeant Ben P. Wilder, Jr. February 28, 1923 – July 22, 1962
Sergeant Donald C. Williams, May 21, 1917 – June 12, 1967
Sergeant James Strachinsky, February 13, 1912 – September 4, 1969
Aux. Sgt. Lee A. Hutchinson, September 7, 1912 – July 25, 1970
Deputy James A. Allen, March 27, 1919 – May 21, 1974
Corporal Lemon Harvey, April 28, 1947 – December 15, 1981
Deputy Frederick T. Clark, November 16, 1952 – May 7, 1987
Deputy Donna M. Miller, February 9, 1961 – May 8, 1987
Deputy David A. Abella, June 19, 1977 – April 21, 2004
Sergeant Ronald Harrison, August 25, 1951 – August 15, 2007
Deputy Mark A. Longway, May 8, 1962 – September 21, 2010
Deputy John R. Kotfila, Jr., September 9, 1985 – March 12, 2016