By Randy Arrington
STANLEY — On Friday evening on the D.C. Mall, the nearly 40,000 assembled could see it start to rain in the distance. They wondered when the storm might reach them — but their flames kept flickering throughout the candlelight vigil, as a long list of names were read honoring fallen law enforcement officers across the country.
“It never came over us,” Stanley Police Chief Ryan Dean said of the storm. “It’s strange how it happened that way.”
Perhaps because the crowd had endured enough storms, hundreds of tragic stories about officers who had made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty — friends, co-workers, spouses, siblings. Some had been working the front lines during the pandemic and fatally contracted COVID-19; some were involved in accidents during a high-speed pursuit; and others were fatally shot during a traffic stop — like Stanley Police Officer Dominic “Nick” Winum.
On Feb. 26, 2021, Officer Winum was shot multiple times before he ever exited his cruiser during a traffic stop that afternoon on Judy Lane. The shooter, a white male obviously suffering from mental health issues, was later killed by law enforcement after hiding in barn in the Marksville area.
Last weekend, Chief Dean and Winum’s widow, Kara, traveled to Washington to participate in several events as a kick-off to National Police Week (May 15-21). During Friday night’s candlelight vigil, the name of “Dominic J. Winum” was called among hundred of others. The list was exceedingly long at 487 because of the inclusion of fallen officers from both 2020 and 2021 due to the cancellation of the event during the pandemic. The ceremony lasted more than three hours.
On Saturday, Chief Dean and Kara took some time to visit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial before the crowds came for an address from President Joe Biden on Sunday.
“It was easy to find Nick’s name [on the Wall] because our wreath was bigger than anyone else’s,” Chief Dean mused, referring to the wreath with bright, yellow flowers made for the special ceremony at the Pioneer Bank Performance Center in Ed Good Memorial Park on Feb. 26 — the one anniversary of his Officer Winum’s fatal shooting.
“As soon as I saw his name I lost it,” Chief Dean said of the emotional moment at the Memorial Wall. “But [I was] also kinda proud…you know…for the recognition he’s receiving for putting his life on the line.”
Sunday, May 15 was Peace Officers Memorial Day with flags flying at half-staff. Speakers at a three-and-a-half-hour memorial service in front of the U.S. Capitol included President Biden, as well as the national president of the Fraternal Order of Police. Biden spoke of the recent tragedy in Chicago and made a statement that resonated with the Thin Blue Line in the audience.
“He said that law enforcement is one of the few jobs where you can have lunch at noon, and by dinner there can be an empty chair there,” Chief Dean said. “I thought [Biden] did well…especially for a crowd [at least politically] may not have been all that supportive.”
Sitting less than 50 yards from the President, Chief Dean said he felt proud — being “just an ole’ boy from Stanley” — to stand among those who served in some of the biggest agencies in the nation.
“Some [of the departments represented] had more officers than we have citizens in Town, and I got treated the exact same as Los Angeles or NYPD,” he said, “and I never met anyone who was rude or obnoxious…everyone was there for the right reasons.”
The crowd spilled back from the stage in front of the U.S. Capitol down the mall to almost the Washington Monument, according to Chief Dean, with at least six blocks of D.C. shut down for the President’s address. The event was hosted by the U.S. Capitol Police.
“I think [Kara] was proud to have Nick’s name called out at the vigil on Friday and at the memorial on Sunday,” Chief Dean said.
Survivors of fallen officers met in groups according to how their beloved had died. About 10 women sat in the group with Kara Winum — all widows mourning the loss of their husbands at the hand of “felonious assault”, mostly by gunshots. On Saturday these groups of survivors got together to share their experiences and their methods for healing.
“Just being in a room with other women who have been there…,” Chief Dean said. “To actually sit down and talk with eight or nine other women…I think it really helped her.”
“Hearing their stories — and telling her story to them.”
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