Riders remember fallen Indiana officers, raise money for their families
By Christin Nance Lazerus email@example.com July 18, 2014 11:00PM
Cyclists touring the state with Cops Cycling for Survivors arrive at the Porter County Sheriff's Department on Friday, July 18, 2014. The group is stopping in several cities each day to remember officers who have died while serving. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 20, 2014 6:05AM
From buttons to photographs pinned to the backs of their jerseys, cyclists weaving their way across Indiana on the Cops Cycling For Survivors ride make a point to recognize fallen police officers and their loved ones.
Cops Cycling For Survivors, Inc. rolled into Northwest Indiana on Friday, stopping in LaPorte and Porter counties before stopping for the night at the Radisson Star Plaza in Merrillville. On Saturday, they plan to stop in St. John, Lowell and Morocco before stopping for the night in Kentland. Riders average between 40 and 98 miles on the road each day.
It was the fifth day of a 13-day bike tour, which will include a total of 66 riders. Eighteen riders will ride the entire route, but a variety of law enforcement officers, friends and family of law enforcement, and survivors ride portions of the route.
The group has raised more than $500,000 in the past 12 years to assist and support families of fallen officers. At the start of this year’s ride, president Rich Crawford, a master trooper with the Indiana State Police, said about $31,000 had been raised, and they hope by reach $45,000 by the end of the ride on July 26. Donations may be submitted at the group’s website — www.copscycling4survivors.org — or Crawford said people will come up to the group with cash at gas stations.
Crawford said this year’s ride has been blessed with good weather, though two riders were sidelined with minor injuries near Richmond.
Lake County Corrections Officer Robyn Frazier took part in her first ride with the group on Friday, starting in Mishawaka and will continue with the group until they arrive in Kentland, Indiana, on Saturday night.
Frazier dedicated her ride to fellow corrections officer Britney Meux, who was killed in a hit-and-run crash on March 6, 2012, in Crown Point that also injured three other officers.
“I have some other friends who were injured in that accident,” Frazier said. “I thought it was important that somebody from the jail should represent her and her family. We have tons of officers who would love to be able to do this.”
The timing of the ride — coming just weeks after three Indiana police officers were killed — emphasizes the purpose of the ride to executive director Rich Crawford, a master trooper with the Indiana State Police.
“It’s a tragedy and it weighs heavily on us — the inherent danger of the job,” Crawford said. “It shows us that there are more families that we hope to help.”
The ride stopped by the Porter County Sheriff’s Department on Friday afternoon to meet with family members of Indiana State Trooper Scott Patrick, who was shot and killed by a robbery suspect on Dec. 22, 2003, at the Grant Street exit ramp on the Borman Expressway.
Patrick’s mother Sandy Patrick said the ride typically honors her son at his gravesite. She appreciates the time they take to meet with her.
“As a mom, you never want your son to be forgotten,” Sandy Patrick said.
In addition to Patrick, riders read the names and circumstances of other fallen officers from Porter County.
The group’s support truck displays pictures of the officers killed during the previous year. This year, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer Rod Bradway, who was killed in September, is the only one. But next year at least three officers will be on the truck: Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer Perry Renn, Gary Police Officer Jeffrey Westerfield, and Tipton County sheriff’s deputy Jacob Calvin.
Annette Deguch was riding in honor of her late husband, South Bend Police Officer Paul R. Deguch, who was shot while questioning a suspect on Aug. 8, 1997. It’s her fourth year riding through portions of northwest Indiana, but the first time she’s been joined by her 17-year-old daughter Mackenzie, who was just 7 weeks old when her father was killed.
She has appreciated the efforts of the group to remember her husband and others.
“They would stop by our subdivision and wave at me and the kids or meet me at Paul’s grave,” Deguch said. “I said, ‘Gosh, I would love to ride with you guys,’ and here I am.”
Deguch said the timing of the ride has brought back a flood of memories.
“My husband has been gone 17 years, but it’s just brought it all back,” Deguch said.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer Stephen Knight served as part of the honor guard for his fellow officer Perry Renn more than a week ago. Knight said it’s been a tough time for all law enforcement and their loved ones.
“You realize this ride isn’t about you; it’s about the survivors,” Knight said. “Law enforcement is a big, old family; a tight-knit group and you’d be surprised how interconnected we all are.”