Omaha-area law enforcement honor fallen officers

Monday is Peace Officers Memorial Day, part of National Police Memorial Week
Peace Officers Memorial Day was commemorated Monday morning by the Douglas County Law Enforcement Center.
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 12:21 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Local law enforcement officers honored those fallen from their ranks during a memorial service Monday morning.

The 11 a.m. service at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office was part of National Police Memorial Week. The service honored those officers from all Omaha-metro area agencies — active or retired — who died since 2022′s observance last May.

Monday is Peace Officers Memorial Day, part of National Police Memorial Week.
Monday is Peace Officers Memorial Day, part of National Police Memorial Week.(Zoran Tesic / WOWT)

Gov. Jim Pillen also ordered flags to fly at half-staff on Monday in observance of Peace Officers Memorial Day.

A statewide memorial service will take place at 10 a.m. Friday at Fonner Park in Grand Island, featuring honor guards from across Nebraska. This year, three names will be added to the monument:

  • Saunders County Deputy Jeffery Hermanson, a K9 handler for the sheriff’s office, died in June 2022 of a medical issue while on duty. He had worked with SCSO since 2001.
  • Lancaster County Sheriff’s Deputy Troy Bailey died in November 2020 of a massive heart attack after serving with LSO for 25 years.
  • Burt County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Smith died in July 2021 after battling COVID-19. He had served with the Sheriff’s Office since 2008.

Last week, honor guards representing the Omaha Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office placed American and blue line flags and a blue carnation at the graves of all their local fallen officers. There was also a vigil walk held over the weekend.

Omaha law enforcement came together Monday to honor and remember their fallen colleagues.

In the Omaha Metro Area, this year’s memorial was emotional as family, friends, and colleagues honored their late loved ones.

Flowers in hand, they walked to the front of the ceremony and placed a rose in a wreath as a token of their affection.

Deputy Kayleigh Pigsley honored her late husband, Deputy Seth Withulski. Pigley said, “We got hired on together, so we both worked for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office we went through the academy together.”

Pigsley said her late husband died of suicide in January 2020.

His death is part of a disturbing national trend. According to researchers with the Ruderman Family Foundation, law enforcement officers are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.

In 2020 nationwide, 16 police officers took their own lives and 113 died while on the job.

Pigsley says her late husband is remembered every day. “We take it one day at a time. We still talk about him at home.”

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and Douglas County Sheriff Aaron Hanson were among those who spoke about the importance of law enforcement.

Stothert said, “The people of Omaha strongly support our law enforcement officers who are dedicated to the security of our families, schools, neighborhoods and to enforce the rules of the law.”

Hanson said, “Law enforcement will continue to uphold our constitution and constitutional rights, continue to stand up for the weak, the innocent, and the voiceless.”

This is a developing story. Stay with 6 News for updates.