By Charlotte Smith
The Bladen County Sheriff’s Office hosted the 2019 Peace Officers Memorial Service on Wednesday morning, May 8th. The event was held to honor law enforcement officers and those in the service who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, according to Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker.
Bladen County fallen law enforcement officers were saluted and their families were recognized during the service. Those local law enforcement officers honored were Police Chief Roy Franklin Fores, Police Chief Marvin James Bell, Officer Brian Joe Ramey, Deputy Sheriff James Brian Collins, Deputy Sheriff Dewayne Hester Trooper Kevin Keith Conner and Officer James Area Smith.
Families, friends, county leaders and law enforcement officers attended the service to pay their respects to law enforcement and the fallen heros. Mr. Robert Hester, former County Commissioner, local business owner and native of Bladen County lead the program. Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy performed the Presentation of Colors and the National Anthem. Rev. Warren Hill gave the invocation and Elizabethtown Retired Chief of Police, Bobby Kinlaw was the guest speaker.
Mr. Kinlaw reminded those in attendance to the sacrifice law enforcement officers make on a daily basis. After Kinlaw’s remarks, Mr. Hester gave a testimony of each law enforcement officer in Bladen County who died in the line of duty.
The presentation went as follows:
Chief Roy Flores suffered a fatal heart attack while struggling with a suspect. Chief Fores had responded to a call involving two drunk men who were fighting. When he arrived on the scene one of the men began to struggle with the chief. End of watch September 3, 1967.
Chief Marvin James Bell was shot and killed while responding to a disturbance call. He was familiar with the suspect and had arrested him several times before. As he approached the man the suspect drew a weapon and opened fire, mortally wounding Chief Bell. Chief Bell was able to return fire and kill the suspect. Chief Bell was survived by his wife and two children. End of watch September 30, 1972.
Officer Brian Joe Ramey was killed when his patrol car was intentionally struck by a vehicle being chased by officers from another agency on N.C. Highway 211. End of watch: May 12, 2001.
Deputy Sheriff James Collins was killed when the patrol car he was riding in struck a tree during a pursuit. End of watch: September 26, 2001.
Deputy Sheriff Dewayne Hester was killed in a vehicle collision while responding to an assault in-progress call near Elizabethtown. He was traveling on NC Highway 87, near Allen Priest Road, when his car left the roadway on a curve and struck a tree. End of watch: June 8, 2012.
North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Kevin Keith Conner was shot and killed while conducting a traffic stop of a speeding vehicle on U.S. Highway 701, near Sellers Town Road, in Columbus County at 12:15 a.m. The suspect opened fire on Trooper Conner as he was approaching the stopped vehicle, fatally wounding him. The man fled but was located near Fair Bluff. He lead officers on a pursuit until his vehicle became disabled on railroad tracks in the town. He then fled on foot but was located and taken into custody at 4:00 a.m. End of watch: October 17, 2018.
Officer James Area Smith suffered a massive stroke while supervising the inmate roadside Cleanup Crew on Peanut Plant Road. Mr. Smith was taken to an area hospital where he passed away a few days later. End Watch: January 6, 2019.
In the past year Bladen County has lost two members of the Law Enforcement family. According to Mr. Hester, Trooper Conner was not stationed primarily in Bladen, but worked the area and he grew-up in Bladen and was a member of the Bladenboro Fire Department.
Mr. Smith was a retired detention officer from Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office before starting as a Supervisor for Bladen County’s Roadside Clean-up Crew in 2018.
Mr. Hester stated, “The Sheriff’s Office and the County of Bladen are forever in debted for the service of both Kevin Conner and James Smith. Today we are unveiling two stones, Flag Stones, that will lay in honor of Conner and Smith to forever show our gratitude for these two wonderful men and the sacrifice they made to our country.”
Sheriff McVicker thanked everyone for coming, those who paid for the memorial service and stones. McVicker added no tax dollars were spent on the service or the memorial. Everyone invited was invited for refreshments in the center after the service. Rev. Dale Hester gave the benediction. Families, friends, county leaders and law enforcement officers paid their respects to the fallen heros.