Gulfport police honor officers who died in the line of duty

Published: May. 14, 2021 at 6:57 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - As part of National Police Week, the Gulfport Police Department on Friday honored officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

It’s an event that is not only necessary for the immediate law enforcement family, but also necessary for those on the outside to appreciate what it means to give your life for what you believe in. And, it’s a ceremony that never gets old, because it never loses its value.

“Unfortunately, line-of-duty deaths are going up in this nation,” said Gulfport Police Chief Chris Ryle. “This is an opportunity to honor those who every day put on that uniform and say, ‘I’m going to toe the line for our community no matter what the cost.’”

In Gulfport, two more officers were added to the list of those who’ve died in the line of duty. They’re not from recent tragedies, but rather deep historical research: R.L. Varnado, who died in 1908; and Malchi Lee, the first black officer hired by Gulfport Police, who died of a heart attack while on the job in 1950.

For the first time, Lee’s grandnieces had the chance to honor him at the memorial service.

“We didn’t know much about him, but we always heard stories about him being a police officer with Gulfport,” said Nellie Henry. “And, we were very proud. This has meant the world to me to know that he’s being honored after all these years.”

The lone picture she and her sister, Carolyn Magee, had of their uncle was with his nephew, Zach Durr, another Gulfport Police officer.

“They used to call him Mali. Uncle Mali this, Uncle Mali that,” Magee said. “Being the first black policeman in Gulfport means a lot to the family.”

Dorothy Gibson has attended this service for many years. The Gulfport Police Department’s headquarters, the Robert J. Curry Public Safety Center, is named in honor of her son, who died in a motorcycle accident while on duty in August 2008.

“It’s hard on all police officers and their families too,” she said. “They never know if they’re coming back home that night or day after their shift. My heart goes out to all of them, no matter where they are. Doesn’t matter who they are.”

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