Washington • The etching of Derek R. Johnson is 14 panels over and 29 rows down, one of thousands of names of fallen officers forever set in stone at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington.
"It’s very permanent," his widow, Shante, said Thursday as her son, Bensen, took a pencil and paper to copy the etching of his father’s name to take back home to Utah.
Derek Johnson, a Draper police sergeant killed in the line of duty last September, was among hundreds of fallen officers honored Thursday in the nation’s capital. With the addition of their names, the marble memorial now totals more than 20,000 officers.
Flowers, uniform patches, pictures and hand-written notes dotted the memorial as the families of officers killed in the line of duty dropped by to pay tribute.
"This means a lot to us, to our family, to come here and honor Derek on a national level and to have so many of his brothers and sisters in blue be here," Shante Johnson said, tearing up as bagpipes played in the background. "It means a lot to us."
Derek Johnson was shot on Sept. 1 investigating a suspicious vehicle in Draper. He was never able to return fire.
On Thursday, officers from across the country gathered at the Capitol, donning black bands around their badges to mourn their fallen comrades. Police leaders and elected officials praised those who put on a uniform to protect and defend their communities.
House Speaker John Boehner ordered the Capitol’s flags flown at half-staff on Thursday.
"This is a day to serve those who serve us," Boehner said. "Let us all take time to remember the fallen, reflect on the sacrifices their families have made, and give thanks for the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way every day."
Draper Police Chief Bryan Roberts noted Thursday that the police memorial is the only monument in Washington that grows every year.
"When you’re there at the memorial service and you see all the families and all the officers, thousands of people are there, it’s a very sobering experience," Roberts said. "It’s another one of those opportunities for the law-enforcement family, the public-safety family to come together and lean on one another. ... We just want to wrap ourselves around those families and tell them we love their brothers and sisters that have given their lives."
Sgt. Pat Evans, who was Derek Johnson’s best man at his wedding to Shante, escorted the family around and noted how the business community and residents of Draper helped come together to raise funds to send seven Draper officers and Johnson’s family to the memorial service. Some 40 people in all flew in for the family.
"It means the world to me," Evans said.
Underneath his dad’s name, Bensen Johnson had earlier posted a note.
"I love you Dad," he scrawled, "so much."
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