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Officers’ names to be on memorial
Deceased police will be honored
Monday, December 24, 2012
From Bulletin staff reports
Eleven officers from this area are among the 765 men and women who died in service to their communities as public safety officers whose names will be engraved at the Commonwealth Public Safety Memorial.
The Virginia Public Safety Foundation (VPSF) announced Monday that the initial roster of 765 people is the result of two years of research work completed by VPSF, according to a news release. The memorial is slated for construction at Capitol Square in Richmond in 2013. VPSF, a 501 (c)3 organization, serves as memorial administrator.
The release lists these officers from this area:
• Henry County: George Melvin Brown, Willis Herman Ferguson, George Shelton Frame, Paul Edward Grubb, John Jefferson Johnston and John Hughes Mitchell;
• Martinsville: George Fountain Carter;
• Patrick County: Richard Wayne Craddock, Floyd William Nunn, Robert Bunyan Sheppard, Walter W. Willis.
Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said people in public service “who step forward to put their lives on the line are to be respected and honored. They are ... held in high regard in serving.”
The following comes from information and links provided by VPSF:
• Investigator George Melvin Brown Sr., Henry County Sheriff's Office, died June 26, 1984.
Brown was killed in an automobile accident on Route 86 while transporting a prisoner from North Carolina to Henry County. The two were only a few miles from the Virginia border when the unmarked department vehicle veered into oncoming traffic and struck a tractor-trailer head-on. Brown and the suspect both were killed. The driver of the tractor-trailer stated that he observed the two occupants of the vehicle struggling as the car veered into his lane of traffic.
• Deputy Sheriff Willis Herman Ferguson Sr., Henry County Sheriff's Office, died March 18, 1975.
Ferguson, then 46, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while helping a motorist change a tire on U.S. 220 during a rainstorm. Ferguson was an Army veteran who was survived by his wife, son and two daughters.
One of the “reflections” for Ferguson was by his daughter, Regina Ferguson Craig:
“Deputy Herman Ferguson was my Dad. He died doing a job he truly loved. He was so loved and respected and died much too young. He wasn’t there to see me graduate high school or nursing school, to walk me down the aisle or to meet his grandchildren who he would have so loved and would have loved him so. I love and miss you Daddy. Gina”
• Bassett Police Officer George Shelton Frame died March 25, 1923.
Frame, then 34, was shot and killed while attempting to arrest a suspected bootlegger. The suspect previously threatened to kill Frame if he ever interfered in his bootlegging operation.
When Frame approached the suspect, the man shot him twice, then a third time after the officer had fallen to the ground. The suspect pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years.
Frame previously had served with the Newport News Police Department. He was survived by his wife.
• Deputy Sheriff Paul Edward Grubb, Henry County Sheriff's Office, died July 2, 1989.
Grubb was shot and killed while serving a search warrant as a member of his department’s tactical team. The suspect claimed he had been asleep and thought he was being burglarized. He shot at the first person through the door, striking Grubb in a major artery in his leg. The suspect was convicted of manslaughter.
• Police Officer John Jefferson Johnston, Henry County Police Department, who died Jan. 27, 1945.
Johnston, then 36, was killed in an automobile accident on U.S. 220 when his vehicle left the roadway and struck a tree. It is believed that his patrol car’s steering gear failed as he went around a curve, causing the vehicle to leave the roadway.
He had served with the department for four years and served in the community of Fieldale. He was survived by his wife and four children.
• Deputy Sheriff John Hughes Mitchell, Henry County Sheriff’s Office, who died May 4, 1922.
Mitchell was shot and killed in an ambush after seizing illegal whiskey. He had served with the sheriff's office for one year. He was survived by his wife and six children.
• Policeman George Fountain Carter, Martinsville Police Department, who died June 14, 1919.
Carter was shot and killed with his own gun while attempting to observe illegal gambling. While hiding in some woods to observe a crap game, two brothers located him and shot him with his own weapon.
• Richard Wayne Craddock, “deputy, 1/16/1999 — presumption (disease related to line of work).”
• Floyd William Nunn, “EMT, 6/14/03 — killed.”
• Constable Robert Bunyan Sheppard, Patrick County Sheriff’s Office, who died Dec. 11, 1932.
Sheppard was shot and killed when he and the Stuart town sergeant attempted to stop a stolen car. The car had been confiscated during a prohibition investigation and stolen from the county garage the previous night.
The two officers stopped the vehicle and as Sheppard attempted to arrest the occupants, he was shot. The town sergeant was shot in the chest and seriously wounded when he went to Sheppard’s aid.
Five men were arrested in connection with Sheppard’s murder. The man who fired the shots was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Two brothers also were sentenced to more than 30 years in prison for their parts in the shootings and theft of the vehicle.
• Deputy Sheriff Walter W. Willis, Patrick County Sheriff’s Office, who died Dec. 2, 1939.
Willis, then 64, was shot and killed while raiding a still near Willis Gap. He was approaching the still when he was shot in the back by a suspect armed with a .22 caliber rifle. Willis crawled one-half mile to a nearby house, where he died a short time later.
Willis was survived by his wife, four sons, two daughters, father and brother.
VPSF formally launched the campaign to raise $2 million for construction of the monument in May 2012. In total, $800,000 in private contributions has been secured, the release stated.
To compile the roster, VPSF conducted a statewide census of public safety agencies and organizations and coordinated with national organizations and the Virginia Department of Accounts, which processes line of duty death benefits. The names listed in the roster have been reviewed and approved by a panel of professionals representing each branch of public safety, appointed by Secretary of Public Safety Marla Decker, the release states.
The list is not final. Some recent deaths (2011-12) are not included because they still are under investigation by the commonwealth, and it is likely that additional historic cases will be uncovered in the coming months, the release states.
For more information on VPSF, the Line of Duty Death Roster or the memorial fund, call 804-648-6299, extension 1004; or visit www.vpsf.org.