Eight representatives of the Beverly Hills Police Department rode 260 miles over three days from New Jersey to Washington, D.C. But Sgt. Sean Smollen knew that the most challenging part of the ride wouldn’t come until the end.
A veteran of the Police Week Unity Ride, Smollen warned his colleagues and fellow cyclists that when they – flanked by two of the department’s motorcycle officers and three honor guards, rode into the National Police Memorial, the sound of bagpipes and the thunderous applause of thousands of fallen officers’ family members and community supporters would be “emotionally overwhelming.”
“I can honestly say that in my 28 years with the BHPD, riding into the police memorial and seeing the families who are there to greet you is like nothing else I’ve experienced,” Smollen said. “To see the small children who lost their moms and dads, and the wives and husbands who lost their spouses in the line of duty, it is tough to keep your composure.”
Today is National Peace Officers Memorial Day, the highlight of National Police Week, which was established in 1962 by a joint resolution of Congress. Paying respect and recognition to those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of their communities, the day is marked with ceremonies all over the nation.
Smollen and his colleagues raised at least $1,950 each to participate in the charity ride and join thousands of law enforcement officials, family members and others at the national event in Washington, D.C. Police officers aren’t known for being natural fund-raisers, but this year, as the reputation of the profession seems increasingly under attack, more BHPD officers than ever before, 14, made the commitment.
“As law enforcement professionals, we have a duty and responsibility to never forget the sacrifice made by our fallen heroes and the families left behind,” said BHPD Chief Sandra Spagnoli. “In Beverly Hills, six of our police officers made this ultimate sacrifice. When we attend these memorials and honor the fallen officers across the nation, we carry the memories and heroism of BHPD officers with us.”
Beverly Hills PD officers killed in the line of duty include:
Detective Gabriel A. Coyoca, Jr.
On December 23, 2013, Detective Gabriel Coyoca died after battling cancer caused by exposure to carcinogenic chemicals while assigned to the Department’s narcotics unit. Detective Coyoca served eight years with the Department and was 45 years old at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Officer Jesse Farr
On April 9, 1925, Officer Jesse Farr was killed in a motorcycle accident after being struck by a drunk driver. Officer Farr was 31 at the time of his death.
Officer Thomas E. Milett
On June 16, 1953, Officer Thomas Milet was killed during firearms training. Officer Milet served six years with the Department and was 28 years old at the time of his death.
Officer Francis X. Carver
On November 18, 1948, Officer Francis Carver was killed in a motorcycle accident while pursuing a traffic violator. Officer Carver served three years with the Department and was 26 years old at the time of his death.
Officer Edmond W. Gardell
On July 21, 1939, Officer Edmund Gardell was killed in an automobile accident while pursuing a traffic violator on Wilshire Blvd. Officer Gardell served five years with the Department and was 31 years old at the time of his death.
Detective Sergeant Walter R. Grider
On April 14, 1933, Detective Sergeant Walter Grider was shot and killed while attempting to arrest a burglary suspect. Sergeant Grider served 5 years with the Department and was 35 years old at the time of his death.
In addition to the remembrance events in Washington DC this week, BHPD also participated in the California Peace Officers Memorial in Sacramento earlier this month. On May 22, BHPD will attend the 50th Annual Los Angeles County Peace Officers Memorial, honoring police officers in Los Angeles County who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
So far this year, 42 officers in the U.S. have been killed in the line of duty. And in 2018, line of duty deaths claimed 144 officers’ lives.
It is for these officers that Smollen and his colleagues say they ride. The Police Unity Ride raised $2.6 million for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund this year alone, bringing total contributes to the fund to $23 million.
“Participating in this really puts into perspective your life choices and your career decision,” Smollen said. “Riding through little towns and seeing people walk out of small businesses and wave and clap for us, seeing homes waving the Thin Blue Line flags from their porches, it’s pretty amazing. It really reminds you how important law enforcement is and the role we play in the community.”
Among those representing Beverly Hills PD in Washington, D.C., are:
Sergeant Don Chase
Officer Matt Thurman
Unity Tour Riders:
Lieutenant Todd Withers
Sergeant Sean Smollen
Sergeant Eric Olson
Sergeant David Dimond
Sergeant James Keenaghan
Detective Paul Kim
Officer Stephanie Nguyen-Lieu
Officer Ryan Lawrence
Lieutenant Robert Maycott
Sergeant Eric Hyon
Detective Chris Lelong
Lieutenant Mike Hill