Remembered with respect

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What could be taken as preventive medicine was prescribed Thursday during Lewisburg's Police Department Law Enforcement Memorial Service by the father of a highway patrolman who was murdered during a traffic stop several years ago.

"Sometimes you see a kid off to the left or right" of the straight path of behavior, Norman Jenks, father of Trooper Calvin Jenks, told his audience in Rock Creek Park. "Don't be afraid to tap them on the shoulder ... to let them know what's right and wrong."

Alejandro Gauna, 17 when Jenks died, made a tearful apology to the trooper's family, saying he "had the devil in him" when he pulled the trigger, Norman Jenks told police, friends and family in the park.

"We're a pretty religious family," the Culleoka resident said after the annual service. He used Gauna's apology to tell his daughter that God didn't let that evil act happen that Saturday night in January 2007. It was a result of other forces and inaction.

Society has changed since Norman Jenks started coaching baseball and softball at Columbia, he said, concluding young people "don't have role models... Parents turn a blind eye." Gauna had a child that weighed five pounds at birth.

Gauna was sentenced to life in prison as Jenks' shooter. The second defendants' case concluded Sept. 10, 2010 when Orlando Garcia also got a life sentence. "Nine others went down in a drug ring" investigation stemming from Jenks' murder, the trooper's father said.

The Jenks family made 32 trips to Memphis and Tipton County for the trial and related hearings.

"Calvin loved what he was doing," Norman Jenks said, noting others in his family are law enforcement officers.

So, the trooper's father "gladly accepted" the request to speak at the memorial service that's held to pay special recognition to law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty for the safety of others.

During his two years as a trooper Jenks told his family it was "very enjoyable" to work with law enforcement officers in Marshall County. He transferred from Marshall County to Tipton County in 2005. He moved with his family from Michigan in 1989. His father works for GM in Spring Hill. The trooper graduated from Culleoka Unit School in 2000.

Lewisburg Police Chief Chuck Forbis presided at the ceremony including the Columbia Police Honor Guard presenting the colors, the Marshall County High School Chorus singing the national anthem and THP Sgt. Brad Lund piloting a helicopter flyover.

"We do this to ensure that we never forget our fallen heroes..." Forbis said naming Officer Billy Blackwell (Feb. 1, 1975) and Detective Eugene Leverette (Nov. 25, 1999) as local lawmen who died in the line of duty.

"Following a two-year decline, law enforcement fatalities in 2010 spiked to 162," Forbis said. "This was an increase of nearly 40 percent compared to 2009, when 117 officers were killed in the line of duty.

"Firearm fatalities increased 24 percent, from 49 deaths in 2009 to 61 in 2010. Even more alarming, is that multiple-fatality shootings accounted for nearly 20 percent of all fatal shootings...

"In Tennessee, we suffered the loss of three officers in the line of duty in 2010... In just the first few months of 2011, we have already loss the same number of officers in Tennessee.

"The average age of the officers killed in 2010 was 41; the average length of their law enforcement service was nearly 12 years and, on average, each officer left behind two children."

During the service, LPD Chaplain Rev. Shaun Grant read a poem, "The Final Inspection," saying those who carry a badge can't always be a saint, but may be told, "Come walk your beat in heaven, you've done your time in hell."

The chaplain's wife, Anna Beth Grant, sang a song by Vince Gill, "Go Rest High on That Mountain," about the "troubled life" for those who "weren't afraid to face the devil ... (and were) ... no stranger to the rain."

LPD Chaplain Rev. Tom Dumser read and explained the 23rd Psalm, adding, "Most of us don't get it," that law officers on patrol must know they might not return home.

"There is," Norman Jenks said, "no routine traffic stop..."