It’s been a rough start to the year for law enforcement in Alabama. People can and will find reasons to find fault with law enforcement, but it’s important to recognize their sacrifices and support them as they deal with two recent tragedies.
On Feb. 4, a man well-known to Cullman County law enforcement allegedly shot and killed Kimberly Police Officer Nick O’Rear, a 33-year-old officer, father of two girls and with a son on the way. The gunman, according to police, was 37-year-old Preston Cheyenne Johnson, who had a record of drug arrests in Cullman County and elsewhere. After an October arrest, the CCSO requested he be held without bond; however, he was granted bail and was out at the time of the shooting. The point here is not to point fingers, it’s to highlight the tragedy of O’Rear’s killing and the frustration felt by law enforcement.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall this week addressed Alabama’s recent, sad history of police officer shootings. At a press conference flanked by law enforcement officers, Marshall said, “For us, the fourth of February marked the seventh murder of a member of Alabama law enforcement in barely thirteen months, a record loss of life and a disturbing pattern that, today, we stand here to say must end.”
He went on to address would-be killers. “To those who would consider harming one of Alabama’s law enforcement officers, understand this and let me be clear. An attack on law enforcement in Alabama is an attack on all of her citizens—an attack on all Alabamians. If you attempt to take the life of a law- enforcement officer in this state, we will hold you accountable and see that you spend the rest of your life in a cinderblock prison cell. And if you take the life of a law-enforcement officer in Alabama, you will have likely forfeited your life as well.”
The Alabama House of Representative also took up the issue, passing a bill that would make targeting a police officer a hate crime. Whether or not it makes it through the legislative process remains to be seen - a similar bill did not pass last year - but the fact remains that many Alabama law enforcement officers certainly feel targeted.
Then, in the wake of Officer O’Rear’s death, Cullman County Deputy Adam Clark and his K9 partner Figo were injured in an accident Tuesday morning, dealing another blow to the local law enforcement family. Originally listed in critical condition, Clark continues to improve at Huntsville Hospital while Cullman County does what it does best - offers support and prayers. There have been several fundraisers established to help the deputy, his family and Figo, who is being treated at Auburn University’s veterinary facility. In addition, a prayer vigil is taking place today, Saturday, Feb. 15, at 10 a.m. at Depot Park, hosted by Pure Faith Ministries.
Cullman is a community that holds its own tightly and shows its love generously. Right now, our officers need that encouragement and support. On that, we’ll let AG Marshall have the last word: “Lastly, to the brave men and women who wear the badge, my heroes. Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. Keep fighting the good fight. Your cause is a righteous one. Know that you have our support and our eternal gratitude.”