The sound of gunfire broke the silence.
However, it was not the violent gunfire to which many of the law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in McLennan County fell victim.
Instead, it was the sound of a 21-gun salute signaling a time of reflection and remembrance for fellow officers who died in the line of duty.
Lt. Larry Kelly, a member of the department’s narcotic unit, said the Friday night Police Memorial Day Service at Indian Spring Park was to “pay tribute to the officers who gave their lives for citizens in this community.”
In addition to honoring fallen police officers and a McLennan County Sheriff’s Department jailer, the service paid tribute to the four Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents killed Feb. 28 during the raid on the Branch Davidian compound at Mount Carmel.
Kelly called the ceremony “more fitting this year” especially because of the sacrifice of the ATF officers.
He praised the dedication of the agents and expressed hope that their courage would be remembered.
During the ceremony, the children of slain Waco Police Sgt. John Vicha placed a wreath in front of the Police Memorial at the park in honor of the fallen law enforcement officers and their father.
City Manager Jim Holgersson, who was the guest speaker at an awards ceremony that followed, used the words “commitment, dedication, courage and sacrifice” to describe what officers contribute to the community.
Just how much officers sacrifice when they don a gun and badge was evident during the ceremonies.
Officer Kenneth Zacharias was awarded the Medal of Valor and the Lifesaving Award, and Detective Timothy Calloway was awarded the Meritorious Conduct Award.
They got the awards for a Sept. 15, 1992 incident in which a suspect took Calloway’s weapon and tried to shoot the officers. Zacharias was forced to shoot the suspect.
Officer Kenneth Doles received the Meritorious Conduct and Lifesaving awards for helping another officer during a robbery arrest and risking his life while rescuing an elderly woman from a burning building on Oct. 10, 1992.
Officers Martin Pessink, Christopher Smith and Chris Kingrey all received Meritorious Conduct Awards for “bravery in the line of duty.” Kingrey and Pessink also received commendations.
Officer Steve January was awarded the Police Officer of the Year Award, while Officer Mark D. Barclay was named Rookie of the Year.
Police Chief Gil Miller said January was honored because of his “hard work in the community and his effort to take drug dealers off the street.”
He added that January has probably “arrested more drug dealers than any two officers.”
January was also named the Optimist Police Officer of the Year.
The two awards are made after a nomination and screening process by the Waco Police Department’s Awards and Benefits Committee, Miller said.
The families of the seven members of the police department who lost their lives in the line of duty were honored with the Police Cross, the highest honor the department can bestow.
The four ATF agents also were honored with the Police Cross for “making the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty.” Phillip Chojnacki, special agent in charge of the Houston office of the ATF, received the awards for the families.
Civilian employees with the department were also honored since nearly one-third of the department consists of civilians.
Sharon Hopwood was honored as the 1992 Civilian of the Year. Two other civilians, Christy L. Christie and Nikki Price, received Civilian Certificates of Merit.