Insiders: Fallen Officers Remembered with 250-Mile Bike Ride

Posted at 11:00 PM, May 21, 2015
and last updated 2017-12-13 05:25:12-05

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) -- Law enforcement deaths are on the rise across the country. Last year, 117 officers died in the line of duty. There's a bike ride every year to remember the fallen officers. It's called the Police Unity Tour, and it's split up into chapters across the country. 

"We ride for those who died" is the slogan of the Police Unity Tour. Law enforcement officers and family members of the fallen hold this journey close to their hearts.  

Bill Smith was part of the 250-mile bike ride from Portsmouth, Virginia to Washigton D.C. He was riding to honor his brother, Leon County Deputy Chris Smith who was killed on November 22, 2014, after he was shot responding to a house fire. 

Bill Smith finds some comfort riding with other survivors and law enforcement officers who are dealing with similar experiences.

Members of the Tallahassee Police Department, the Florida Highway Patrol, as well as other agencies in the Sunshine State traveled many miles to take part in this annual event. Some even rode for people they have never even met.

"The individual that I'm riding for is officer Anthony Hasse," said Matthew Clements with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. "He was from Rio Rancho P.D. He was killed in the line of duty on October 26, 2014, and it's my honor to do so."

The three-day bike ride was no easy feat. The cyclists climbed many steep hills. When it got tough, Clements said he looked down at the bracelet wrapped around his wrist bearing the name of officer Hasse who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

What kept Kimberly Hornsby of Texas, pedaling was the notion she could overcome anything. She says nothing compares to the heartache she felt with losing her husband and then his friend. 

"Last year I rode because Bobby was killed in 2013," said Hornsby. "So I wanted to ride for him, and so while we were here last year actually, while we were on the tour, the day of the safety meeting, his SWAT mate Chuck Dinwiddie was shot, and he was actually passed away while we were on this ride."

The ride took cyclists through the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. If you ask them, they'll tell you those moments riding alongside the marble walls etched with the names of well over 20,000 fallen officers was bittersweet. As the ride ended, strangers met up with one another to honor the fallen. Family members gathered with their loved ones at the wall near their fallen officer's name.

Deputy Chris Smith's wife says it's an honor no one wants, but it's incredible to have the support and humbling that her brother-in-law rode the long distance.

"He died a hero. He worked 25 years in law enforcement," said Erika Smith.

Families say the Police Unity Tour and the candlelight vigil that followed, honor the courage and dedication of the fallen officers who will never forgotten.

Click here to see pictures, videos, and blogs from the Police Unity Tour.