Years in the making, a memorial for fallen officers was unveiled Friday at the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, offering a quiet place for colleagues and loved ones to honor those killed in the line of duty.
During a ceremony in the courtyard of the Sheriff’s Office on Leeds Avenue, agency officials presented the memorial garden before a crowd of families and local elected officials.
At the center of the garden stands a monument emblazoned with the words: “Their duty was to serve. Our duty is to remember.”
Around it are smaller monuments with the names of 11 Charleston County sheriff’s deputies killed in the line of duty, dating back to 1906. Trees were dedicated in memory of two constables and one volunteer.
Hanahan Police Chief Dennis Turner told the crowd the memorial is special to his family because it's the first time that his great-grandfather John C. Meyers is honored in a permanent way.
Meyers worked as a motorcycle deputy with the Charleston County Police Department, the predecessor to the Sheriff’s Office. On Aug. 28, 1926, he was riding his motorcycle on Spring Street when he attempted to pull over a vehicle. He was struck by a street trolley and killed.
For almost 100 years, Turner said only his family knew Meyers’ story. His name had never been inscribed on any law enforcement memorials. Now, the Sheriff’s Office dedication ensures Meyers’ sacrifice won’t be forgotten, Turner said.
“To everyone that wears a badge and carries a gun … we owe it to every individual listed on this memorial and all the other memorials to learn their stories, memorize their stories and share their stories so they won’t be forgotten,” he said.
It was the second time this week that the Charleston community gathered to remember fallen officers. On Wednesday, a ceremony organized by the Tri-County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #3 paid tribute to 71 officers who have been killed in the Lowcountry.
Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon told the crowd Friday that he’s visited many historical monuments, and his agency's “is in fact world-class.”
Many have personal ties to the project.
“I have friends who are on those plaques,” Cannon said. “I was at the scene of their deaths, assisting and investigating.”
A committee within the Sheriff’s Office spent five years planning the memorial. It's a tribute that Lt. B.K. Williams said he and other deputies have vocalized a need for over the past two decades.
Charleston County Council approved $343,000 for the project, which contracted with Jerry Regenbogen Consulting and The Monument Shop.
On each individual monument is a blue light that will mark the anniversary of that officer’s death.
The light on James Owens Jr.’s light will glow Saturday, 51 years after the Charleston County patrolman was shot to death while transporting a man to jail in 1968.
After Friday's ceremony, his sister Zeborah O. Thompson said the memorial was a long time coming and made her family proud.
"It’s something eternal," she said.