PLAINFIELD — The sleet fell fast Tuesday evening as a riderless horse began the ceremony to remember law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. Project Blue Light remembers not only the officers, but their families who are trying to rebuild after these devastating losses.
Every December for the last 20 years, the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, the training ground for future police officers, holds a Project Blue Light ceremony in Plainfield. This year, officers, cadets and family of the fallen officers honored four more names added to the roster of 433. They include Sgt. Edward Bollman of the Department of Natural Resources, Boone County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Pickett, Terre Haute Police patrolman Robert Pitts and Fort Wayne Police officer David Tinsley. The ceremony also remembered Hendricks County Sheriff’s K9 Cade.
Boone County Sheriff Mike Nielsen said feelings are still raw from March when Pickett, 34, was killed in pursuit of a suspect with K9 Brik.
“Jake’s boys were not here tonight, which is probably a good thing,” Nielsen said. “”We’re a little over nine months post incident and we’re still trying to find that new normal. I don’t know if we’ll ever find it, but every day it’s a little bit easier. We move on.”
Nielsen added that he is still grieving and trying to understand.
“Some of us, like myself, have to have a therapist to get us through that,” Nielsen admitted. “I never imagined anything like this happening on my watch.”
The other officers added to the roll call this year included Tinsley, a 16-year veteran, who died of a heart attack while searching for a suspect following a vehicle pursuit.
Bollman, 44, died while trying to rescue a friend while ice fishing in Frankton last February.
Pitts, 45, of the Terre Haute Police Department, was shot while trying to apprehend a murder suspect in May. He was also a 16-year veteran of the force.
In attendance at the ceremony was his father, Greg Pitts, a former Sullivan officer and his step-mother, Sue.
His father said the loss is still raw every time the family makes an appearance.
“It brings us right back to that day,” Pitts said. “But we got to meet, tonight, some of the other survivors that we haven’t met before. It’s good that you can talk to the survivors because we can relate to each other. You know, you can talk to so many people and they give you their sympathies, but it’s not like talking to somebody that knows how you’re feeling.”
Tim Horty, the recently-appointed executive director of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, said nationally officer deaths in the line of duty are up 5 percent.