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AP Photo / Eric Gay
Published: 2 years ago
Heartbreak and anger have been common themes in recent days, as people nationwide react to waves of violence. After the police shootings of two black men – Alton Sterling and Philando Castile – in separate incidents, subsequent shootings have taken the lives of law enforcement officers. We are taking a moment to remember the people who lost their lives – what they cared about most, whether in uniform and at home with loved ones.
Montrell Jackson, 32
Jackson had served on the Baton Rouge Police Department for 10 years. He was a new father, his son Mason just four months old. A friend remembered Jackson's love for his job: "It motivated him to go out and change people's lives. He was on (the force) to help people, to make you have a better day. He was humble, kind and sweet. … He wasn't on there to write tickets. I don't understand how this could happen to someone like him."
Jackson had recently written a heartfelt Facebook post in which he talked about the turmoil in Baton Rouge following the death of Alton Sterling. The long post concluded, "This city MUST and WILL get better. I’m working in these streets so any protesters, officers, friends, family or whoever, if you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer. I got you."
Matthew Gerald, 41
Gerald had been with the Baton Rouge Police Department since 2015, serving with the uniform patrol division. He was a veteran of both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps, having served three tours in Iraq. Gerald was the father of two children.
A friend who served with Gerald in Iraq described him as "made to serve the people." He went on: "Matt was the kind of guy that you knew immediately when he entered the room. Whether it was the energy he carried with him or that Cajun accent he had . . . maybe it was the Marine in him. . . . We did our time in the military, and when that time was up, you just can't turn off that want to serve the people. Today he did his final service by giving his life to protect the citizens of Baton Rouge and his fellow brothers and sisters in uniform."
Brad Garafola, 45
Garafola was a deputy with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office. The husband and father of four was planning to leave on vacation the following day. His wife remembered the things he loved most: "He loved staying outside and fixing things. Besides the Sheriff’s Office, that was his passion … He loved us so much. He was always bragging about his family."
In 1998, Garafola helped bring a notorious criminal to justice. He tracked down Glenn Sparks and helped his fellow deputies chase Sparks on foot before capturing him. The criminal was later sentenced to 50 years in jail for crimes including rape.
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Philando Castile, 32
Castile was a native of St. Paul, Minnesota. He was the cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori School in St. Paul, having worked there since 2002 and been promoted to supervisor two years before his death. Castile had been an honors student at St. Paul Central High School and attended the University of Minnesota.
Castile's friends and coworkers remembered him as a good man, friendly and popular with his colleagues and the children he worked with. One statement from a coworker noted, "Kids loved him. He was smart, over-qualified. He was quiet, respectful, and kind. I knew him as warm and funny; he called me his ‘wing man.'" A J.J. Hill Montessori parent wrote, "He knew every single one by name, pushed extra food in them like a grandma, and sneaked extra graham crackers into my son's bag because Peter got a kick out of it. My borderline autistic son hugged him every day. … This was a GOOD MAN."
Alton Sterling, 37
Sterling worked as a cook as well as selling CDs on the side, earning him the nickname "CD Man." The Baton Rouge, Louisiana resident had been living at the Living Waters Outreach Ministries shelter for a short time. Though he had a criminal record, friends and fellow shelter residents remembered him as gentle: "He wasn't a bad person," one friend said.
"Whatever he cooked, he cooked enough for everybody," a shelter resident told The Advocate. "I never saw him coming in here with a weapon, and I never saw him drunk." His aunt noted that he had already "paid his debt to society," and a cousin shed light on his life in an interview with the Post: "He had a hard life. He didn’t have no momma, no daddy. He wasn’t stable at all. He lived day to day based on what he made." Sterling is survived by five children.
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Lorne Ahrens, 48
Ahrens was a Senior Cpl. who had served with the Dallas Police Department for 14 years. A former semi-pro football player, he made an impression with his 6-foot-5 stature. Yet, he's also remembered for his soft side, especially when it came to his children; according to his father-in-law, he enjoyed taking them fishing and to the movies, and more than once, went to his daughter’s school in uniform to talk about policing and safety.
He was married to a woman who shared his profession – Katrina Ahrens, a Dallas police detective who worked with the Crimes Against Persons division.
Michael Krol, 40
A native of Michigan, Krol became a member of the Dallas Police Department nine years ago. He was one of the victims of Friday's sniper shootings there.
Krol's uncle remembers his nephew as being passionate about helping others. He also said that being an officer was Krol's life dream.
"He got into law enforcement and worked really hard to be a police officer. He spent some time at the correctional facility. It wasn’t quite what he was looking for, so he worked pretty hard to find a job and got one in Dallas," Ehlke said. "He was all in, he was all in."
Michael Smith, 55
Smith was a Sergeant with the Dallas Police Department and a U.S. Army veteran who served as an Army Ranger. He attended the Lamar Institute of Technology. The father of two girls had considered retirement, according to his brother-in-law, but decided it was more important for him to stay on and support the police force.