In honor of 2010 National Police Week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Senior Special Agent (SSA) Ellen Pierson traveled from Jacksonville Beach, Fla., to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (NLEOM) in Washington, D.C. Her mode of transportation – bicycle.
Pierson clocked 1,200 miles, beginning the morning of April 30. Pierson, ICE SSA Jay Ferreria and ICE Resident Agent in Charge Kirk Lockwood are considered "long riders." ICE SSA Stephen Lewis joined them in Portsmouth, Va., and the four agents completed their journey to the NLEOM as part of the Police Unity Tour (PUT).
Pierson has participated in the tour since 2001, four years after it was initiated by a New Jersey police officer as a way to bring public awareness to law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty. Pierson said PUT participants come from all over the U.S. and even England to participate. They are "federal, state and local athletes and 'donut eaters' who all care about the officers who have fallen," Pierson said.
Each cyclist wears a bracelet engraved with the name of an officer who was lost that year. This year, Pierson's bracelet bore the name of Mark Parker, an Orange County Sheriff's Office (OCSO) corrections officer, later made honorary deputy. Pierson said, "I had the pleasure of serving in the OCSO Explorer Program with Mark and, this year, I am riding in his honor."
Pierson related events on January 10, 1984, that forever changed the life of Mark Parker, 19 years old at the time. Parker was on duty at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando, Fla. A suspect entered the courthouse intending to shoot a police officer who had given him a traffic ticket. The suspect opened fire. He mortally wounded one officer, killed another and shot at the judge, but missed. Exiting the courtroom through a hallway, the suspect exchanged shots with another deputy. Parker, who was unarmed, was caught in the crossfire as he was shielding citizens. The injury left Parker a quadriplegic. He required round-the-clock care for the remainder of his life.
On March 19, 2009, after 25 years of fighting through the many trials of paralysis, Mark succumbed to his injuries. "I attended Mark's memorial service and listened to the stories told by friends, family and law enforcement officers," Pierson said.
"We are all aware of the courage Mark displayed on that horrible day but what was even more moving is how Mark had lived after the incident. Given all of the difficulties he faced every day, Mark smiled continuously, never complained and never asked 'why me.' Rather, he sought opportunities to volunteer, enjoyed many hobbies and lobbied for improved benefits for public safety employees injured in the line of duty," Pierson said.
This year, the PUT raised $1.1 million. The funding will be used to make necessary restorations to the NLEOM.
Read more about ICE's activities honoring fallen agents and officers during National Police Week.