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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Missouri

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Nation Pays Tribute to Service and Sacrifice of Law Enforcement Officers

National Peace Officers Memorial Day

The names of five Missouri heroes have been engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., this year. Their sacrifice, and the dedicated service of their fellow law enforcement officers, is being honored during National Police Week, which is being observed Sunday, May 12 to Saturday, May 18. Today is National Peace Officers Memorial Day.

“During National Police Week, our nation pays tribute to the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers and agents who often face uncertain and dangerous situations without question and without expectation of thanks,” said U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison.

“Four law enforcement officers in the Western District of Missouri were killed in the line of duty in 2018,” said Garrison. “They made the ultimate sacrifice, and we owe them our undying gratitude. As we honor their memory, we offer our unwavering support and appreciation to all those who are sworn to protect and serve our communities.”

Flags are being flown at half-staff today in recognition of National Peace Officers Memorial Day to honor law enforcement officers killed or disabled in the line of duty.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 158 law enforcement officers died in line-of-duty incidents in 2018, including Officer Christopher Ryan Morton, Special Agent Melissa S. Morrow, Deputy Sheriff Casey Lee Shoemate, and Deputy Sheriff Aaron Paul Roberts in the Western District of Missouri.  A fifth law enforcement officer, Agent Thomas Jefferson Greer, was killed in the line of duty in 1971 and is also being honored.

Each year during National Police Week, tens of thousands of law enforcement officers from around the world converge on Washington, D.C., to participate in a number of events to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Les Kerr, Law Enforcement Coordinator for the Western District of Missouri, is attending this year’s events.

During a candlelight vigil last night on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the names of fallen officers added to the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial were formally dedicated. Among the names engraved on the wall are the four law enforcement officers from the Western District of Missouri who were killed in the line of duty in 2018 as well as the name of Agent Greer.

“These officers and agents remind us of the risks we ask our law enforcement officers to take every day,” said Garrison. “We can show our appreciation for their sacrifice by supporting their brothers and sisters in uniform who continue that good, essential work.”

In October 1962, Congress enacted a joint resolution, which the president signed, declaring May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day to honor law enforcement officers killed or disabled in the line of duty. The resolution also created National Police Week as an annual tribute to law enforcement service and sacrifice. For more information about other National Police Week events, please visit www.policeweek.org.

Law Enforcement Officers Killed in the Line of Duty
Western District of Missouri

Officer Christopher Ryan Morton
Clinton Police Department
End of Watch: March 6, 2018

A domestic disturbance call turned into a deadly ambush for Clinton Police Department officers on the night of March 6, 2018.

Officers responded to a 911 call at approximately 9:20 p.m. The call taker could hear screaming in the background on the call, but the caller did not otherwise communicate and hung up before officers arrived on scene. When the officers arrived they made contact with a woman who came out of the front door of the residence. She told the officers that no one was inside. Shortly after, the officers (all of whom were wearing body armor) entered the residence to perform a public safety check and were fired upon by an individual hiding in the bathroom with a 9mm semi-automatic rifle.

Officers returned fire and quickly retreated outside the residence. The gunfire continued after the officers left the building. Officer Morton, however, had been struck and was still inside the residence, incapacitated. Two patrol officers also had been wounded.

Officer Morton remained in a bedroom for approximately 15 minutes before being rescued by a joint effort of the Bates County Sheriff’s Response Team and the Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop A Swat Team. He was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his wounds.

The shooter barricaded himself inside the home. A SWAT team entered the home shortly after midnight and located the shooter, who had committed suicide.

The ensuing investigation revealed that the original 911 call had been made from a home approximately 15 miles away; officers were dispatched to the wrong location when the call was traced to a different address. The man who opened fire on the officers was out on bail for weapons and methamphetamine charges and was under investigation for a rape.

Officer Morton had served as both a reserve officer and full-time officer with the Clinton Police Department for three years. He had recently returned to full-time status following the line-of-duty death of Police Officer Gary Michael on Aug. 6, 2017. He was a veteran of the Army National Guard and is survived by his parents and siblings.

Special Agent Melissa S. Morrow 
Federal Bureau of Investigation
End of Watch: March 22, 2018

Special Agent Morrow died as the result of brain cancer that she developed following her assignment to the search and recovery efforts at the Pentagon following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. She was assigned to FBI Washington Field Office’s Evidence Response Team and spent 10 weeks recovering and processing evidence from the site in hazardous and contaminated conditions.

Special Agent Morrow had served with the FBI for 22 years and was assigned to the Kansas City Field Office at the time of her passing. She is survived by her parents and sister.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, 72 officers from eight local, state, and federal agencies were killed when hijackers working for the al Qaeda terrorist network, headed by Osama bin Laden, crashed four hijacked planes into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and a field near Shanksville, Penn. After the impact of the first plane into the World Trade Center's North Tower, putting the safety of others before their own, law enforcement officers along with fire and EMS personnel, rushed to the burning Twin Towers of the World Trade Center to aid the victims and lead them to safety. Due to their quick actions, it is estimated that over 25,000 people were saved.

As the evacuation continued, the south tower unexpectedly collapsed as a result of the intense fire caused by the impact. The north tower collapsed a short time later. Seventy-one law enforcement officers, 343 members of the New York City Fire Department and over 2,800 civilians were killed at the World Trade Center site.

A third hijacked plane crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania when the passengers attempted to re-take control of the plane. One law enforcement officer, who was a passenger on the plane, was killed in that crash.

The fourth hijacked plane was crashed into the Pentagon, killing almost 200 military and civilian personnel.

Deputy Sheriff Casey Lee Shoemate 
Miller County Sheriff’s Department
End of Watch: April 20, 2018

Deputy Shoemate was killed in a vehicle crash on Route Y while responding to a structure fire at a fellow employee’s house. He collided head-on with an oncoming vehicle during the response. Deputy Shoemate was pronounced dead at the scene. The other driver was flown to a local hospital in serious condition.

Deputy Shoemate had served with the Miller County Sheriff's Office for one year. He is survived by his two children, parents, and several siblings.

Deputy Sheriff Aaron Paul Roberts 
Greene County Sheriff’s Department
End of Watch: September 7, 2018

Deputy Roberts drowned after his patrol car was swept into the swollen Pomme de Terre River in the area of Cabin Creek Road and Farm Road 2. He had responded to a 911 hang-up call in the area and was returning into service. He made an emergency radio broadcast when his vehicle was swept off of the road in floodwaters. After an intensive search, rescue crews located his vehicle approximately 50 yards downstream and recovered Deputy Roberts’ body from inside.

Deputy Roberts had served with the Greene County Sheriff's Department for one year and had previously served with the Willard Police Department. He is survived by his wife, 7-year-old daughter, and parents.

Agent Thomas Jefferson Greer
Missouri Department of Liquor Control 
End of Watch: February 11, 1971

Agent Greer collapsed and died of a heart attack after crossing a muddy field with a state trooper to investigate a report of a prowler in a barn.

Updated May 15, 2019