Canton Repository

May 16, 2003

President honors police slain in the line of duty

Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — Police serve as a key bulwark against “evil,” President Bush told thousands of police and the survivors of slain officers at an annual memorial observance Thursday.

“Law-enforcement officers know that evil is real, and evil has servants of its own, criminals and terrorists who live by violence and make victims of the innocent,” he said. “And law-enforcement officers know that evil must always be opposed.”

Bush’s speech held outside the Capitol drew police from all over the country, including Massillon, which sent about 10 officers to the service. The annual event honored 148 officers who were killed in the line of duty last year, including Massillon Patrol Officer Eric B. Taylor, who was represented by his family and fellow officers.

“The risks of law enforcement come in difficult assignments, and even in routine calls,” Bush said, the flags behind him at half-staff honoring the fallen police. “Officers train and prepare for many threats, yet preparation will never take the danger away from a hard profession.”

The president cited Mary Ann Collura, an 18-year veteran of the Fair Lawn, N.J., Police Department, who was killed while confronting an armed man after a high-speed chase.

According to Bush, a fellow officer later said, “You know, there are probably a hundred cops like this who did everything right and still have their names on the wall. You put your faith in the hands of God every day when you go out there.”

Taylor, 31, was gunned down Aug. 9 as he attempted to apprehend Constitutionalist Donald Matthews of Jackson Township after a chase with an Ohio Highway Patrol trooper. Matthews was killed in the resulting shootout with police.

Addressing the survivors and family of law enforcement in the large crowd, Bush said their lives were an act of faith.

“Family members share the uncertainties and worries of service,” he said. “And every May 15th, we think especially of those who have received the sudden and terrible news, many of whom are here today. Your sadness and loss are deep, and so is your pride. Long before tragedy came, you knew this person you loved was brave and good. And your country knows it, too.”

Taylor’s wife, JuWanna, her two children, her mother and Taylor’s mother traveled to Washington, D.C., for the memorial as well as a candlelight vigil held Tuesday. More than 150 safety patrol students from Massillon elementary schools also attended the vigil.

“It was long, but it was very nice, very honorable. I thought it was very good,” JuWanna Taylor said of the memorial service.

Earlier in the week, she had been led to believe she and other survivors might meet Bush before the service, but it didn’t happen.

After the ceremony, the president spent at least 45 minutes shaking hands with survivors along a metal security fence as bagpipers played “America,” “Yankee Doodle,” and the service hymns among other tunes.

Bush hugged women, posed for pictures, signed autographs and held babies. He spent considerable time with one teary woman who seemed overcome with emotion and on the verge of sobs by the time he moved on.

JuWanna Taylor was unable to get close to the president.

“Everybody kind of crowded up there, so I didn’t get a chance,” she said. “I had a rough time with it today. It was hot out there.” But she added that her children, Tyree, 3, and Lauren, 1, were doing well.

Coming to Washington was beneficial for the Massillon officers, said Massillon Police Chief Mark Weldon, who also attended the service.

“Especially where we’ve lost people, I think it’s very important to learn that you’re not alone and I think you need that input,” he said.