David Rosser is the unofficial bagpiper for the police departments of the North Carolina.
He travels across the state for solemn memorials as well as other junkets and functions donning a National Memorial Law Enforcement tartan in a blue kilt held up by a gun-belt — holstered pistol on his hip — playing his bagpipe, a High Point Police Department patch stitched on the instrument’s side.
The High Point officer, Rosser, drove to Durham Friday to open the Durham Police Department’s annual Peace Officers Memorial Service, held at the Grey Stone Church on Hillsborough Road with a song. He piped “Scotland the Brave.”
The service, hosted by the Durham County Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #2, memorializes law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty and honors their families, Durham Police Department spokeswoman Kammie Michael said.
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The service also pays tribute to working and retired law enforcement officers.
As Rosser played, relatives of those fallen in the line of duty processed into Grey Stone’s nave along with honor guards from the Durham Police Department, Durham Fire Department, Durham County Sheriff’s Office, Duke University Police Police Department and a North Carolina State Highway Patrol trooper who bore the state flag down the aisle.
“It’s very important to the families. This is a local service we have here,” said Mike Evans, president of the Durham County Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #2. “Luckily we haven’t had anybody to die in Durham in a while. As violent as Durham is, as many shootings as we have, luckily none of our officers, I mean, they’ve been injured, but we haven’t lost any.”
The statewide North Carolina Peace Officers Memorial Day ceremony will be held at the First Assembly of God church in Gastonia May 4 and the national Peace Officers Memorial Day ceremony is scheduled for May 15 in Washington, D.C.
Police Chief C.J. Davis was on hand as well.
Davis told The Herald-Sun, “After 30 years in law enforcement, I’ve seen some colleagues and close friends fall in the line of duty. I’ve even been out there and seen some of those scenes. There’s nothing like it.”
When Davis was in her mid-20s and her third year working as an officer at the Atlanta Police Department, a mentor of hers, beat patrol officer Greg Davis, was tracking a man then-called the “Bicycle Killer” in an Atlanta city district where two murders linked to him had already occurred, Little Five Points.
“He had stricken at least twice, killed two people ... He was on a bicycle ... That’s right. It is crazy,” Davis said. “[Greg Davis] was the guy that was working overtime because he wanted to catch this guy.”
Greg Davis found the Bicycle Killer on August 26, 1988. The officer pulled over a man riding a bicycle, to question the rider. The rider was the Bicycle Killer. Guns were drawn, both men fired — both hit their targets and both died.
“The perpetrator shot Greg and Greg shot the perpetrator. That’s what the scene was, when I got out there — two bodies in the middle of the street,” Davis said. “Maybe about 27, I was young at the time, young, and it made me realize what this work was really all about.”
Some five blocks away from where Davis was killed, an Atlanta City plaza is now named in Davis’ honor — Gregory L. Davis Plaza.
The fallen, remembered
Here’s a list of the Durham peace officers honored at Friday’s service:
▪ Durham Police Sgt. Gill Cates — shot to death May 28, 1913 while handling a domestic disturbance call.
▪ Durham County Sheriff’s Deputy Will Hall — shot to death Oct. 18, 1929 while searching for a cache of hidden whiskey.
▪ Durham Police Detective Ronald Gill — shot and killed by a man breaking into a store on June 10, 1933.
▪ Durham County Sheriff’s Deputy Onus Hall — shot to death while answering a disturbance call on July 17, 1939. He was the brother of Deputy Will Hall.
▪ Durham Police Officer J.C. Price — fatally injured Dec. 3, 1939 in an on-duty motorcycle accident.
▪ Durham County Sheriff’s Deputy William “Tommy” Land — shot to death Oct. 15, 1971 while answering a silent bank alarm.
▪ Durham Police Investigator Larry Bullock — shot to death April 29, 1976 during a drug raid.
▪ Durham Public Safety Officer Gary Eugene Fletcher — fatally injured Feb. 14, 1978 in a freak accident when he became entangled in a fire hose and was slammed to the concrete.
▪ Durham Police Officer Billy T. Gregory — suffered a fatal heart attack while on duty on April 24, 2004.
▪ Durham Police Officer Charles Callemyn — fatally injured Feb. 17, 2007 in a traffic accident as he was responding to assist another officer at a traffic stop on Holloway Street.