“DOING WHAT WE LOVE”
One at a time, officers in the honor guard Friday morning approached the wreath of white flowers in Grey Stone Church.
Kyle Gregory clasped a single rose in hand and waited until William Evans, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 2, spoke the name:
“Billy T. Gregory.”
In April 2004, just a little over 10 years ago, Billy Gregory died of a heart attack after stepping off a treadmill he’d been using for mandatory physical fitness.
His son, now 24 and wearing a Durham Police Department uniform, stuck the rose into the wreath and sketched a solemn salute.
“I watched Dad as I was growing up, saw him putting on the uniform and going out there to help people,” Kyle Gregory said after the 28th Peace Officers’ Memorial Service. He joined the force two years ago, to carry on his father’s legacy, he said.
The service, which included performances by Marlon West and the 100 Men in Black Chorus, paid tribute to officers from several agencies killed in the line of duty since 1913:
-- Durham Police Sgt. Gill P. Cates. Shot and killed May 28, 1913, while trying to arrest a man for shooting and wounding his wife.
-- Durham Police Detective Roland A. Gill. Shot and killed June 10, 1933, while investigating a burglary call at a local store.
-- Durham Police Patrolman J. Clarence Price. Died Dec. 3, 1939, in a motorcycle accident while on patrol on West Main Street.
-- Durham Police Investigator Larry D. Bullock. Shot and killed April 29, 1976, during a drug raid on Pilot Street.
-- Durham Police Officer Gary E. Fletcher. Died Feb. 16, 1978, of injuries sustained after a fire hose he had attached to a hydrant came loose, wrapped around his feet, and caused him to fall to the ground as the fire truck pulled away.
-- Durham Police Corporal Billy Thomas Gregory. April 24, 2004.
-- Durham Police Officer Charles J. Callemyn. Died Feb. 17, 2007, in a single-vehicle accident while responding to a traffic stop.
-- Durham County Sheriff’s deputies Willie Ellison Hall and Onus Y. Hall, brothers who died 10 years apart. Willie Hall died in a shotgun ambush on Oct. 18. 1929, while searching for illegal whiskey. Onus Hall was shot and killed July 17, 1939, after responding to a domestic violence disturbance.
-- Durham County Sheriff’s Deputy William T. Land. Shot and killed Oct. 5, 1971, while responding to a silent alarm at a local bank.
-- Asheville Police Department Senior Police Officer Robert Bingaman. Died Oct. 29, 2013 in a car accident.
Michael Potts, a North Carolina state trooper who was shot five times in February 2013 during a traffic stop, spoke to those gathered in the church sanctuary about growing up in a small town in Georgia. He was the son of a police officer. In 1975, his father was shot in the line of duty and survived.
Potts knew the risks. But, despite a brief foray into professional sports as a baseball player with the Milwaukee Brewers and the Atlanta Braves, his true love proved to be law enforcement.
He worked for the Durham County Sheriff’s Office before moving on to the State Highway Patrol.
The day he was shot “was a horrible day for me,” he said.
“How horrible it must have been for my wife to get that call,” Potts said. “How horrible it must have been for my mom to get that call. She was in Georgia, 500 miles away, and she had to drive here to find out if I was okay.”
He’s seen both sides of that trauma now, from giving the bad news to someone’s family to his own relatives fearing the worst.
“This is who we are,” Potts said. “This is what we do. Doing what we love. If I had succumbed to my injuries that day, I would have died doing what I loved.”
Kyle Gregory knows the risks too. He faces them every day he goes on patrol.
“You just make sure that your family knows you love them and that you’re hoping to help or protect someone,” Gregory said. “You do what’s required.”
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