When fallen Nassau County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Eric Oliver’s name is unveiled on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, some fellow deputies plan to be there.
The Sheriff’s Office’s honor guard is raising money to make the mid-May journey for ceremonies honoring Oliver and the 134 other officers killed nationwide in 2016, days after the deputy’s name is added to the first-ever Nassau County Law Enforcement Memorial in Yulee.
Oliver was hit and killed Nov. 22 by a sport-utility vehicle on Florida A1A just west of Chester Road as he chased illegal Salvadoran immigrant Francisco Obbidio Portillo-Fuentes, who was running from U.S. Border Patrol officers, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Sheriff Bill Leeper will join the pilgrimage to the nation’s capital for National Police Week ceremonies, as will Deputy Garth Holton, accompanying Oliver’s parents as official escort. They will join the six-member honor guard, who are seeking $6,500 in donations to help pay for their airfare, room and board to the national memorial.
“They all want to go, and since we have not had a line of duty death in a number of years, they have never been there,” Leeper said. “They need to participate in the service to honor the memorry of Deputy Oliver. I am going as the agency head, and another officer who will go will be the escort for the family — the deputy who was with him when he was killed.”
Nationwide in 2016, 135 officers were killed in the line of duty, the highest level in five years, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Texas led with 17. That was followed by California’s 10, Louisiana’s nine, Georgia’s eight, Michigan’s six and Florida’s five deaths.
Those officers will be honored on the 26-year-old National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial’s dual 304-foot-long blue-gray marble walls during National Police Week, joining more than 20,000 others killed since 1791.