“I never got to know him:” Earl Phillips remembered at Fallen Officer Ceremony

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 1:50 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Wesley Phillips never got to know his grandfather Earl Phillips. That’s because, during a traffic stop in 1972, the Harrison County sheriff’s deputy was killed in the line of duty.

“I didn’t get a chance to know him because I was only a year old,” Phillips said. “He went up to the car and the guy had a shotgun and shot him in the abdomen and left him there, in the road. Yeah, it’s been hard.”

Until the last few years, Earl Phillips was just another name of a fallen officer to some, until Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson and others put the Phillips’ name and other facts together to make this now annual Fallen Officer Memorial Service happen.

“My wife’s family is Bruce Ladner, a patrolman who was killed, so we went to the police memorial,” Peterson said. “We were there looking through the wall at the names of people from Mississippi, and came across the name Earl Phillips, and it never rang true to me who he was until we started researching.”

Now, every year during Police Memorial Week, Earl Phillips is remembered and honored for his sacrifice while on duty 49 years ago.

“It’s a blessing that this is happening,” Wesley Phillips added.

The annual service is held at Floral Hills Memorial Gardens in Gulfport.

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