Clearwater honors fallen officers

Published May 12, 2007

CLEARWATER - Joanne Howell clutched a white rose as the bugles played taps.

"When you hear taps you're pulled back to Sylvan Abbey, to 1977 watching your brother buried, " she said. "It's just a lot of emotions being here."

Friday marked the city's 26th annual memorial service for Clearwater police officers killed in the line of duty. The last was Howell's 21-year-old brother, Ronald Mahony. He died in 1977 after stopping a stolen pickup truck. When the driver sped away, Mahony jumped into the bed of the truck, which flipped and killed him.

But the Fraternal Order of Police and the Clearwater Police Department organize the service not only for the four Clearwater officers who have died in the line of duty. It also is for the hundreds of officers killed around the country every year.

Friday's service began with a prayer for Tampa police officer John Armao, who was shot in the cheek and shoulder Friday morning while making an arrest. He was listed in fair condition soon after the shooting.

This year's memorial took place in smoke-filled Bright House Networks Field, with a bagpiper, two buglers and an honor guard.

The chief and deputy police chief, the city manager, and three council members sat on top of the first-base dugout along with former congressman Michael Bilirakis.

About 100 people, mostly police officers, sat in the blue stadium seats to take part in the service.

Chief Sid Klein praised his department as "among the best of the best - bar none" and urged his troops to maintain the swagger that comes with the "arrogance of excellence."

Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or 727 445-4157.