Police officers from all over the country vowed to "ride for those who died" this week.
Police Unity Tour Chapter IV - also known as the Virginia chapter - challenged officers on a three day bicycle tour from Richmond to D.C. in memory for fallen officers.
Before the last stop at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, the group of 122 officers and loved ones of fallen police stopped for lunch at McConnell Public Safety and Transportation Operations Center Monday in Fairfax as a tribute to the county most the officers served.
"We had a good group of people this year," said Herndon Police Chief and Chapter IV President Maggie DeBoard. "A lot of them never knew each other, but now we’re like family."
She said seven family members of fallen officers joined the tour this year. She also noted that some of the officers came from as far away as Las Vegas and Ohio.
Last year, the event raised $1.7 million towards the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. To ride, each bicyclist must raise at least $1,700, she said.
Many of the police - most dressed in official Police Unity Tour uniforms - showed slight signs of pain after the three day cycle event despite the rigorous training many go through on the job.
"This is the most difficult chapters to ride because of the hills," said DeBoard.
THE COURSE’S FIRST STOP after departing Richmond is Charlottesville. The cyclists then head through the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to Warrington and Fairfax before finishing in Washington, D.C.
HPD officer Steven Monahan said the weather during prime training season kept many officers from practicing properly.
"Because the winter was so harsh, it was hard to train outdoors," he said. "At the end of the day, though, it’s not about the pain we feel. It’s about who we’re riding for. That’s what keeps me going."
Deputy Chief Tammy Hooper rode the tour for the first time this year to honor Charlie Hill, an officer who died 25 years ago.
"It’s also my 25th year on the police department, so I thought it would be a good tribute," she said, showing the blue metal bracelet on her wrist with Hill’s name on it.
According to odmp.org, Hill was killed in March 1989 after opening fire on a drug dealer who held a gun to a hostage’s head, demanding that his debt get paid. The suspect had enough time to open fire before he was killed, mortally wounding Hill and injuring a second officer.
Hooper said she met Hill during police academy on the shooting range, where he was an instructor.
Lucas County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Rob Sehermerhorn came down from Ohio to ride with the Virginia chapter.
"My friend, Keith Dressel, died in the line of duty," he said. "He interrupted a drug bust."
Dressel, with Toledo Police Department, was shot by a juvenile suspect in the chest when he pursued him by foot. Sehermerhorn wanted to honor his friend by riding what he considered to be a very difficult course. He joked that New J
JERSEY’S COURSE - mostly flat - would have been more similar to cycling in Ohio.
"You can’t say enough nice things about the people that put this together," he said. "You don’t have to worry about nothing but riding. I can’t wait to actually practice and come again next year."