On Tuesday, the people who write the laws in Georgia began their workday with a remembrance of two Peach County officers who were killed when they were upholding those laws.
Peach County sheriff’s deputy Daryl Smallwood and Sgt. Patrick Sondron were shot Nov. 6 last year when they went to answer a call about a dispute between neighbors. Investigators accuse Ralph Stanley Elrod Jr. of opening fire on the officers.
The officers’ families and colleagues came to the state Capitol to hear House and Senate resolutions honoring the officers’ lives and memories.
Sometimes officers are asked why they do the dangerous job they do.
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“For my dad, he was born to serve. That’s all he wanted to do. He would have done anything for anybody and that’s why he was a police officer,” Sondron’s son, Ethan Sondron, told the state House. “And that’s why I looked up to him so much. And I just ask that the House and the state of Georgia just remember what police officers do for us each day, and always back the blue.”
The Legislature starts work every day with a devotional, usually a sermon and prayer from a man in a suit. But on Tuesday, the House session started with words from a man wearing a brown uniform trimmed in thick gold braids, Peach County Sheriff’s Chaplain Brian Stewart.
“Part of your responsibilities are to pass laws to protect the people that you serve, and for those of us in uniform that wear the badge, it is part of our responsibility to enforce those laws. That sometimes comes with a high price,” Stewart said.
The two men, his personal friends, he said, made the “ultimate sacrifice” in carrying out that responsibility. He called on the audience to remember not just Smallwood and Sondron, but all the officers who are killed or assaulted in the line of duty.
Peach County Sheriff Terry Deese said Smallwood and Sondron were the first Peach officers to ever die in the line of duty.
Deese said that in the week after the shooting, officers from Houston County law enforcement agencies answered calls in Peach “to give us time to get our thoughts together.”
Three months later, Deese said, the department is still receiving gifts for the families from all over the country.
In the House, as a clerk read out the formal language of the resolutions honoring Smallwood and Sondron, the 180 or so legislators in the chamber stood to their feet.
State Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella, described the place where the officers answered the call — in northern Peach County — as a quiet neighborhood not far from one of his own peach orchards.
“Patrick and Daryl demonstrated a selfless and sacrificial act of love in standing in the gap between good and evil,” Dickey said.
Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee