Remembering the fallen officers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 9, 2011

This past Friday, St. Joan of Arc Church, held a special Blue Mass honoring law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency first responders. Our parish president, Natalie Robottom, addressed those in attendance and made a statement that all could relate to. Mrs. Robottom stated, “When there is an emergency or tragic occurrence, people run away, but the police, fire and emergency responders run toward the trouble.” Sometimes when these brave men and women run toward danger they never return home.

I feel this is the right time to once again honor those officers that have lost their lives in the line of duty. More than 42 law enforcement officers from Louisiana have been killed in the line of duty. St. John the Baptist Parish has also been impacted by fallen officers, with the first occurring in 1927.

The first officer was Frank E. Fagot Jr., who lost his life Nov. 29, 1927. Agent Fagot worked for the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and was 31 years old. He was shot while trying to arrest someone for poaching.

Constable Ignace Rousselle would become the second fallen officer with his end of watch on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 1936. Constable Rousselle was investigating some stolen

farm equipment when he was

shot and killed. The suspect was convicted of the murder and later executed.

The third officer to be killed in the line of duty was a member of the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Harry Troxlair Sr. was an 18-year veteran of the department, and the end of his watch was Aug. 1, 1969. Deputy Troxlair was killed when his patrol car was struck by an Illinois Central Railroad passenger train as he responded to a domestic disturbance. He was crossing the tracks at Peavine when his unit was struck by the train.

Nov. 6, 1984, would end the watch of Detective Lt. Sherman Walker, and he would become the fourth officer killed in the line of duty in St. John Parish. Lt. Walker had been with the department eight years and was shot and killed by three suspects who were hiding in front of his home and ambushed him as he attempted to unlock his patrol car. The suspects opened fire with shotguns, fatally wounding him.

The fifth officer killed in the line of duty was Deputy Barton Granier. End of watch was on Jan. 27, 1996, having served five years with the department. Deputy Granier was shot and killed by a robbery suspect during a struggle at 2 a.m. After a chase and struggle, the suspect gained control of a weapon and shot two deputies, killing Granier. The suspect was being chased for traffic violations and had recently been released from prison because of overcrowding.

Deputy Edmond “Skipper” Songy Jr. was the sixth officer killed in

the line of duty, with his end of watch on July 9, 2002. Deputy Songy was assisting with traffic on Interstate 10 when he was struck and killed by a driver who came around stopped traffic because of a prior accident. The suspect was charged with manslaughter. Deputy Songy had been with the office for six years.

June 16, 2006, would be the end of watch for Capt. Octavio “Ox” Gonzales, a 13-year veteran of the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office. Capt. Gonzales was shot and killed when he was distracted by a female posing as a stranded motorist and ambushed by the male suspect. The pair had shot another deputy prior to the ambush. The suspect is now serving life plus 50 years.

All of these officers’ photos, along with the names and many photos of all 400 other officers from Louisiana that have been killed have been placed on a memorial wall located inside the Louisiana Treasures Museum. The memorial wall, named “Gone But Not Forgotten Wall,” is our dedication to these officers for their service to us. Along with the photograph is another frame containing the facts of the incident that took these officers’ lives. So as you read the incident you can put a face to the name.

We are still in desperate need of photographs of officers, especially from the New Orleans Police Department. There have been over 108 officers killed in the line of duty, and we currently only have four photos to go with the incidents that hang on the memorial wall. If anyone has a family member or loved one from any department or agency, please contact us to see if we have your loved one proudly displayed on the memorial.

The Louisiana Treasures Museum has law enforcement items that date back from the 1800s, and also located outside the museum are two old jails, one that was built in 1853 and the other 1906.

For information or to schedule tours or hours of operation, please call Wayne Norwood at 225-294-8352. Anyone with photos please give us a call. They can be emailed to us. We need to complete this wall.

Wayne Norwood is a lieutenant with the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Department and owner and operator of the Louisiana Treasures Museum.