Widows shed tears over lost husbands, daughters remembered their father’s last words, and brothers in blue mourned Wednesday at the 2016 Lorain County Police Memorial.
“I have seen firsthand the dedication, commitment, risk, and rewards of our profession. When one of us bleeds we all bleed,” said keynote speaker U.S. Marshal Peter Elliot, grieving for the 35 law enforcement officers who have died so far this year in the line of duty. “It seems lately, with all that is going on in our nation, we in law enforcement are bleeding a lot. Anymore, it is a weekly and daily occurrence. Good men. Family men.”
His heartache was felt by the more than 1,000 gathered in front of Wellington town hall, where this year’s ceremony was held.
Police from all over Lorain County donned dress uniforms and saluted in memory of 16 local officers who have died down through the decades.
Among them were Wellington marshal George Brenner and village patrolman Edmund Smith.
Brenner was gunned down July 17, 1883 by August Tiery, a 19-year-old burglar. The marshal was shot in the neck but staggered to the stairway of his nearby apartment, where he died in his wife’s arms. Tiery was captured in Kipton, where he had hidden in a boxcar, and the revolver used to murder Brenner was recovered in a haymound. Tiery set fire to his prison bed and died of the burns. An accomplice, 29-year-old John Young, was sentenced to five years behind bars.
Smith was shot and killed May 4, 1957, while investigating a Courtland Street domestic disturbance. Suspect Walter Byomin, 30, fled the scene and Smith followed. Byomin stopped to fire off shots while Smith’s gun jammed; Smith was fatally shot as he tried to crawl to his patrol car. Byomin was executed in 1959.
“I was only six and my sister three when our father was murdered in Wellington,” said Smith’s daughter, Connie Smith Buckland. “I only remember bits and pieces about him, but I do know he was proud to wear the badge and the uniform.”
This year’s ceremony, for the first time, also honored four officers with Lorain County experience who died serving elsewhere.
They are Officer Leonard Wilcox (Elyria police, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs police), Trooper Robert Perez (Lorain police corrections, Ohio State Highway Patrol), Cpl. Dyke Coursen (LaGrange police, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, S.C.), and Officer Jason West (Avon police, Cleveland Heights police).
Among those to take the lectern Wednesday was Holly Miktarian, widow of Twinsburg officer Joshua Miktarian. He died July 13, 2008, during a traffic stop.
“My husband was senselessly shot and killed by a monster named Ashford Thompson. After my husband collapsed, Ashford Thompson bent down, pressed the muzzle of the gun on my husband’s forehead, and pulled the trigger three more times,” she said, voice shaking. “Thompson got in his car, and left my Josh on the side of the road where he took his last breath alone… His fearless K-9 was still in the police cruiser struggling to get out and save his master. The memories of that horrible morning will be forever etched in my mind. The dreaded knock on the door. The race to the hospital. The doctors. The shock of holding my husband’s cold hand. I ended that week with a folded flag.”
Alone with their three-month-old daughter, Holly, herself a retired Oakwood police officer, vowed to find justice for her husband. She found a measure of peace when Thompson was sentenced to death row — but there he continues to sit, eight years later.
“Our beautiful daughter Thea just turned eight years old and she is my world. We talk about her daddy quite often and his pictures are always on display in our home,” Holly said, later adding, “It is true in saying that we must move on with our lives but we shouldn’t stop talking about our fallen. We shouldn’t be uncomfortable when their names hit our lips. They gave their all so why shouldn’t we keep their memories alive.”
Jason Hawk and Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk and @DelozierNews on Twitter.