I have a story that I feel needs to be told. A couple of weekends ago, I had the privilege of riding my motorcycle with three very good people.
We, as a group, were invited to ride in a memorial ride in Statesboro, Georgia. Bobby Durden was asked to tell the story of the man we went there to honor. As hard as it was to do, Bobby gave the following words:
“Sgt. Wilbur Berry was a great family man with a big heart. He was the kind of man who would go out of his way to do anything for anyone who needed help. On May 19, 2001, Sgt. Berry was scheduled to be off work. But, he volunteered to cover the shift for another deputy sheriff, so that deputy could go to his son’s birthday party. Sgt. Berry, along with Investigator Bill Black and Captain Howard Nesmith, were attempting to serve a burglary warrant on a suspect. They were clearing an abandoned house when they noticed the offender hiding under a bed. The offender resisted. During the struggle, the offender was able to get the investigator’s gun, shooting him two times in his shoulder. Then, the offender shot Sgt. Berry seven times. Captain Nesmith was able to return fire and killed the offender. Sgt. Berry was transported to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. Sgt. Berry was a 20-year veteran of the Bullock County Sheriff’s Office and only 53 years old.”
When Bobby told his story, I realized at the time this happened, I was still working at the sheriff’s office here in Delaware County. I remember reading the LEADS terminal report, “OFFICER DOWN.” Statesboro, Georgia, was reporting the death of their officer in the line of duty. I read the entire report. It was in 2001 when it happened. It was not as common to have an officer cut down in the line of duty back then, as is now happening. I would like to thank Bobby Durden for telling this story to us after all these years since it happened. It was very hard for him to do so. I hope that the young guys coming up never have to go through anything like this. But, I am afraid it is becoming more and more common.
The following are the most recent statistics as to number of officers killed by gun fire in the USA, in the line of duty:
2018 — 138 killed (to date)
2017 — 45 killed
2016 — 64 killed
2015 — 41 killed
Don’t wait until it happens to your department. Get out and honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Let the community and families know that those who are gone will never be forgotten. I truly feel it was an honor to be invited to Statesboro, Georgia, to help honor Wilbur Berry. His name shall not be forgotten.
You have to remember the other “Wilburs” out there serving our country. They are putting their lives on the line every day. My prayers go out to their families, and to their brothers and sisters they work with in their community. Anytime something like this happens, it burns a hole in the soul of the community.
Loren Pool is a retired Delaware County deputy sheriff in Ohio.