Due to a pandemic-driven hiatus, Thursday’s Clark County Law Enforcement Memorial ceremony was the first Jill Brown has attended since her husband, sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Brown, was fatally shot in the line of duty.
“Being able to gather locally with our people is a very special opportunity,” she said. “I’m just grateful they were able to pick it back up.”
Over the years, she’s attended the ceremony to show her support. But now she’s on the other side of it.
“It becomes something different. … It is now a very personal experience. I am seeing them honoring someone I love. I will never miss an opportunity to hear his name. I think it’s important they keep saying his name, just acknowledging I’m not the only one who won’t forget.”
Jeremy Brown and Vancouver Police Officer Donald Sahota were among the 14 fallen officers in Washington in 2021-22. Their names were read aloud, along with Clark County’s other fallen officers and five K-9 officers, during Thursday’s ceremony at the Clark County Public Service Center.
More than 100 people attended the ceremony in person — many local law enforcement, family members and public officials.
Brown, 46, was killed July 23, 2021, while seated in an unmarked police SUV at an east Vancouver apartment complex. He had been conducting surveillance as part of an investigation into the theft of dozens of firearms from a Hazel Dell storage unit in June of that year.
Sahota, 52, was mistakenly shot and killed by a Clark County sheriff’s deputy Jan. 29, 2022, at his home near Battle Ground during a manhunt for an armed robbery suspect.
“Gone but not forgotten. Those are words that are frequently associated with a loss of those close to us. These are words printed on obituaries, memorials and in speeches. Let us make certain that those are more than just words that live through our actions,” said Chief Criminal Deputy Brian Kessel, Thursday’s keynote speaker.
“Today, we come together to pay tribute to those we have lost in the line of duty — some too recent for us to have begin to heal from and others too distant for us to have vivid memory of, but all deserving the utmost respect and appreciation,” he said.
Kessel asked those in attendance to reflect on each fallen officers’ name and their ultimate sacrifice. He encouraged leaders to invest in their officers and officers to develop bonds with one another.
“To the families, thank you. Thank you for sharing your loved one with us. Know that we will not forget. Your loved one’s sacrifice will always be remembered and revered,” he said.
“To everyone, I ask that you hold true to and honor ‘Gone but not forgotten.’ As the processions end, the tears dry and the years pass, do not forget them, what they stood for and the sacrifices they made.”
The service also included the posting of colors, bell-ringing ceremony and performance of taps. County Councilor Michelle Belkot read the proclamation, marking May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day.
Jill Brown said she thinks it’s beautiful the community continues to honor its officers, even in years when there aren’t recent losses.
“It shows their support for law enforcement, which is more important now than ever,” she said.
She wants the community to know her husband was more than a deputy.
“He was a light who didn’t know a stranger. He was just an amazing human,” she said.