The New Bern Police and Craven County Sheriff’s Office came together Tuesday for a Law Enforcement memorial service for its fallen members.
Or four services, to be precise.
A service to recognize five men who died while on duty on dates from May 29, 1960 to March 31, 2014, was at 10 a.m. at the George Street entrance of the police station. It was preceded by a visit to a newly refurbished Donald Miller Park. Following the service, police, city officials and guests moved around to the parking lot entrance where a new bear statue was dedicated, in part in honor of the fallen officers.
The services concluded with the dedication of the Alexander E. Thalmann soccer field at Lawson Creek Park.
At 9:30 a.m., a motorcade traveled to the Donald Miller Park at 100 Ave. A, where a plaque was placed in honor of the officer. Miller’s family attended the brief ceremony.
Miller was off duty and had pulled into a hospital parking lot in Wilmington with his wife on Christmas Day, 2001, when he was shot by a a man he’d confronted, who was driving recklessly in the parking lot.
The memorial service before the police station was attended by a number of city and county officials and numerous officers of both the New Bern police and Craven County Sheriff’s Office. Bagpipers played and an honor guard fired a gun salute.
A wreath was placed and roses inserted by officers or family members of the five men recognized:
• Sgt. Carl Ellis Mayo, Jr., New Bern police, who died in a motorcycle accident while responding to a call on May 29, 1960.
• Deputy Toby Taylor, who was struck by a vehicle while assisting at an accident scene on Nov. 19, 1963.
• Deputy Jeffrey Matheny, who was killed on October 21, 2000, when his cruiser was struck by another vehicle.
• Donald Miller, New Bern Police, Dec. 25, 2001.
• Alexander Thalmann, who had been with the New Bern police only seven months when he was shot by a suspect during a subject stop on March 31, 2014. He died of his wounds three days later.
Havelock Police Chief David Magnusson was keynote speaker.
Magnusson spoke briefly of his years serving with police in Miami before moving north to become chief in Havelock. He compared big city police and small city police with different weight classes of boxers — different sizes may use different styles, he said, but all are well trained and dedicated to their jobs.
He noted the recent war on police which, he said, started two years ago. “While the overall killings have not increased, per se,” he said, “the gutless ambushes have. In 2016, 135 officers died in the line of duty, either by traffic crash or feloniously. Twenty-one of those 135 were ambushed, and that’s the highest total over two decades.
“In Miami I’ve been to numerous police uniforms … to die violently is something I cannot wrap my arms around. There is an inherent sadness in being a peace officer and yet dying not peacefully. To have no family around you, not being able to say all the things you wanted to say to make things right. Gunned down, never expecting it, as your blood becomes one with the cold concrete. And all you did was your job. You protected the community.”
The bear statue was then unveiled in another ceremony. The two-piece statue, consisting of a bear directing a car, sits directly in front of the public entrance to the station.
It was purchased by private gifts and painted by numerous volunteers who were called forward and given certificates as part of the ceremony. Members of slain officers’ families were also invited to take part in the ceremony.
The service concluded just inside Lawson Creek Park where a large, fenced-in soccer field has been built, complete with a cinderblock concession stand. One end of the field is dominated by a large scoreboard, the top of which identifies the area as the Alexander E. Thalmann Field.
According to Chief Summers, Thalmann was a big soccer fan.
The field was primarily constructed by city workers and paid for through gifts of the community.
Thalmann’s mother, Stacey Thalmann, spoke briefly, thanking the community and stating that she had wanted to give gifts given to her back to the community. She said she believed that physical activity was as important for children as academic training, “and I hope you all agree.”
City Manager Mark Stephens addressed the audience, saying, “Here we are at the culmination of events … there’s nothing more that builds a community spirit than when you gather for social activities.”
He compared the teamwork that sports builds to the teamwork used by police in the community.
“We will have games, fun, reunions, and picnic events (here), all while thinking of the sacrifice an officer made one March,” he said.
A benediction from Chaplain Tim Irwin closed the program.
Contact Bill Hand at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-635-5677, and follow him @BillHandNBSJ.