Former chief remembers other fallen officers

Published 12:36 am Thursday, May 18, 2017

Longtime law enforcement officer and retired Opp Police Chief Bill Shaw spoke at yesterday’s law enforcement memorial ceremony.

Bill Shaw

Shaw shared what made him become a police officer, remembered some fallen officers, and spoke about different things that happened during his tenure in law enforcement.

Shaw said that District Attorney Walt Merrell recently asked officers why they got involved in law enforcement.

“Brett Holmes said he wanted to hear from Bill Shaw,” he said. “I never wanted to be a police officer.”

Shaw said he never shared the typical little boy’s dream of being a firefighter or police officer.

But he got involved in law enforcement in the 1960s.

His first job was as an auxiliary deputy with the Bullock County Sheriff’s Department.

He said the sheriff thought he was too young to have a firearm and instead gave him a No. 33 walnut baseball bat.

He was instructed to use it when going to serve warrants. He was assigned to the back door of a residence in case people tried to escape out of the back entrance.

He said his first weekend was quiet.

Then, he got picked up to go serve a warrant on a Saturday night.

“We started out to a wood yard where the guy worked,” he said. “Here stood a man 7 feet tall and weighing 400 and something pounds. I went to reaching for that bat. To make a long story short, we didn’t have any problems. That started my career.”

Shaw said that he sees some young officers that are a reflection of himself.

Shaw said being in law enforcement is not about the money.

“You are here because you want to do it,” he said. “You want to help people and serve the community. I admire each and every one of you.”

While those gathered honored Covington County’s fallen, Shaw also remembered others he knew who were killed in the line of duty.

He honored Coffee County Sheriff Neil Grantham, who was shot and killed by a former prisoner as he arrived at the Coffee County Jail on March 1, 1979.

Shaw recalled emotions from law enforcement as they went to the home, where the man who shot Grantham was located.

“Now that I think back, what would have happened if those family members had of walked out when we responded,” he said. “That man might have lost his life. There was lots of anger and officers with shaking hands with guns.”

The man surrendered, he said.

He also remembered Luverne Police Department’s Assistant Chief Drexel Rushing, who was also shot and killed in the line of duty. He had served eight years in law enforcement. He was killed July 8, 1971.

And Geneva County Sheriff J.C. Woodham, who died Aug. 7, 1957, after succumbing to gunshot wounds he received three days earlier from two suspects who had stolen hospital narcotics.

He also remembered Geneva County Sheriff Red Sizemore, who died Aug. 3, 1977. He was shot and killed while arresting an intoxicated man for disorderly conduct and threatening a woman.