Virginia students honor fallen law enforcement officers

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Shenandoah Valley, Virginia high school students are shining a spotlight on the work and lives of law enforcement officers by taking a trip to the national police memorial in the nation’s capital. Washington Correspondent Alana Austin tracks down the group Wednesday as they honor these heroes.

The students and school leaders traveled from Triplett Tech to DC for a class project on law enforcement. They’re honoring the men and women who serve, and remembering those who died in the line of duty.

“He had a heart of gold, people said,” explained Mary Mason, Triplett Tech student, about the officer she chose to research.

Mason, inspired in part by her family members in uniform, says she wants to work in law enforcement one day. She and the other students are visiting the national memorial for fallen officers as they each research one hero, and tell his or her story.

Mary chose fallen Winchester, Va. Police Sergeant Ricky Timbrook, while Mason Shanahan investigates the life of the late Virginia Trooper Lucas Bartley Dowell.

“He just ended up dying and it just shows sort of the dangers that even when you’re just trying to help…anything can happen,” said Mason Shanahan, Triplett Tech student.

The teenagers also toured the National Law Enforcement Officers Museum, which explores unforgettable moments like the courage and sacrifice shown on 9-11, and other modern-day issues. The trip all made possible by the school leaders, and a donation from Valley Fertilizer and Chemical Company president Orville Smoot.

A simulator at the museum offers students the experience of life-like scenarios that law enforcement officers face every day: what it’s like when a situation escalates, and a split-second decision could mean life or death.

“Unfortunately more officers (are) losing their life in the line of duty,” said Donna Kinsey, who organized this trip and class project.

The retired South Florida police major runs a consulting firm and teaches a criminal justice class at Triplett Tech. Kinsey says it’s an honor to share her experiences with these young men and women, who may end up becoming officers down the line.

“There’s so many good stories that the public doesn’t see, and they don’t hear, so the students today have had an opportunity to see that side of law enforcement,” explained Kinsey.

The students will be taking these stories back with them to Shenandoah, and the officers that they honored here today will be on display at the school in May, right before National Police Week.

Next month, tens of thousands of people will travel to DC for National Police Week. The ceremonies honoring fallen law enforcement will recognize the lives lost in 2018, and those identified in the past year to have died in service. In total, 228 men and women’s names are expected to be added to the memorial wall this year.

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