Proud, sad day in Harriman

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By The Staff



It was a somber celebration Sunday when crowds gathered at Harriman Riverfront Park to remember those who died in law enforcement.

Hundreds stood in the bright sun, wiping away sweat — and the occasional tear — as the Roane County Law Enforcement Memorial was dedicated.

“It has been a two-year labor of love for everyone involved,” said Harriman Patrolman Jess Rittenhouse.

His son, Jesse Matthew Rittenhouse, was a Harriman officer who died in a car accident on the job in 2004. That tragedy not only prompted the elder Rittenhouse to rally people to create the memorial, but it also inspired him to join the police force himself.

He and his wife, Linda, began the effort to make the memorial a reality in September 2006.

Sunday was the culmination of their drive, and the efforts of many others, to make a permanent reminder to honor fallen officers.

“We are really here to say thank you to our fallen heroes; fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, grandsons, sons, mentors, they are all heroes,” Rittenhouse said.

Patrolmen handed out water in the glaring sunlight as the strains of a bagpipe played and the commander of the Knox County Color Guard barked out orders.

Tears flowed, including those from a Loudon County sheriff’s deputy in attendance.

Rittenhouse spoke, as did a number of law enforcment officials, County Executive Mike Farmer and Harriman Mayor Chris Mason.

Officers read poems and spoke about their time working side by side with the fallen.

Many who spoke had worked with some of the fallen officers, including Bill Jones, who was shot in 2006 with his ride-along friend, Mike Brown.

Both are listed on the memorial.

Chief Deputy Tim Phillips was one of the last people to speak to Rittenhouse before his death.

“He loved his job; he loved his family. He loved the people he worked with,” Phillips said.

He also worked with Jones.

“Bill was a unique individual. He trained a lot of the officers you see here today,” Phillips said.

Guest speaker Chief Joe Clark of New Jersey rode his bicycle in Rittenhouse’s memory in the Policy Unity Tour to honor fallen officers.

The memorial features a statue of a police officer holding the hands of two young children.

It stands on a brick structure where the names of the fallen are listed.

Roane County Sheriff Jack Stockton read the names of those on the wall.

His voice cracked as he read Jesse Matthew Rittenhouse’s name aloud.

Stockton was Harriman police chief when Rittenhouse was killed in an accident during torrential rains caused by remnants of Hurricane Ivan.

Chris Brown, the brother of Mike Brown, was touched by the ceremony.

“It is definitely a good thing,” he said. “Any possible way you can honor them, I think it should be done.”

Bill Jones’ mother came from Cumberland County to attend. Christine Jones said she will spend time at the site as often as she can.

“I just think it is great that they are remembering all of them. I just don’t have words,” she said.

“I think the officers alive and dead should be honored,” said Ray Jones, Bill Jones’ brother.

Some were there for officers who had been killed long ago.

Charles Leslie Swann and his family were in attendance because Charles’ grandfather, John Franklin Swann, a Roane County sheriff's deputy, was listed on the memorial.

He died many decades ago.

“Considering the fact it was such a long time ago we kind of figured it was forgotten,” said Swann.

John Franklin Swann was shot along with Constable James A. Jett on a raid.

“They were raiding a moonshine still in February 1924,” said Lesley Swann, great-granddaughter of the fallen officer.

The Jett grandsons, Jim and Dennis Jett, wished their parents were alive to see the constable memorialized.

"I wish Dad could have been here,” Jim Jett said.

The list included officers who died as long ago as 1890, when Kingston town marshal John Marshall Wester Jr. was killed.

The list includes Wester; Henry J. Cash, town marshal of Oliver Springs; Madison Monroe Diggs, town marshal Oliver Springs; Swann; Jett; Joseph E. Messer, Oliver Springs Police Department; Roy Alford Mynatt, Tennessee Highway Patrol; Alan Wayne Shubert, Roane County Sheriff’s Office; Dennis Ray Armes, Roane County Sheriff’s Office; Rittenhouse; Wayne Thomas “Cotton” Morgan, Tennessee Department of Corrections; Michael Dewayne Moore, Loudon County Sheriff’s Office; Jones and Brown.