LONDON — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, members of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission, and law enforcement officers from throughout the state paid tribute Thursday to eight Ohio peace officers– eight heroes – who died in the line of duty in the past several years.
“Each of them defended our society and its values against those who seek to steal, kill and destroy,” Yost said during his remarks at the 35th annual Ohio Peace Officers Memorial Ceremony in London. “And everything we have today is here because they safeguarded these things with their lives.
“In return,” the attorney general continued, “we promise them, ‘You will not be forgotten.’ And we carve that promise in stone, as you can see in this great ‘Circle of Heroes.’ ”
The Circle of Heroes was a reference to the Ohio Fallen Officers Memorial Wall – a solemn and sacred presence on the grounds of the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy – which bears the names of all 829 Ohio peace officers who since 1823 have sacrificed their lives in service to the public.
“The promise that we make to fallen officers – to keep their memories alive – is not only for them,” Yost said. “We do it for the officers and deputies who stand and serve now. We do this so that all of them know how much we value them, and their mission, and their courage.”
The names of 15 heroes were added to the wall this year, including eight who died in 2022, 2021 or 2020. The other seven are historical honorees, including six Dayton police officers who died of the Spanish flu in the early 1900s.
The eight officers lost in recent years and honored were:
Deputy Daniel J. Kin, Wyandot County Sheriff’s Office
On Dec. 15, 2022, Deputy Kin was transporting a prisoner from southern Ohio to the county courthouse in Wyandot when he was fatally injured in a crash. Deputy Kin was flown to Grant Medical Center in Columbus, where he died of his injuries. He was 34 and had been with the department for less than a year, but his colleagues remember him as someone who loved the job – and showed it with his infectious smile. He was voted Deputy of the Year in 2020 by his previous employer, the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Kin is remembered by his wife of six years, Erin, and their two young boys.
Deputy Matthew E. Yates, Clark County Sheriff’s Office
On July 24, 2022, Deputy Yates was responding to a report of gunshots at a Springfield area mobile home park. A woman had been killed by her son, and, as deputies entered the mobile home, they were met with gunfire. Deputy Yates, a member of the Special Operations team, was hit and went down. He was 41 years old, a second-generation law enforcement officer who enjoyed working with young people and was involved in a local group called Peace Keepers. Yates is remembered by his wife, Tracy, and their three children.
Officer Dominic M. Francis, Bluffton Police Department
On March 31, 2022, a stolen car being pursued by Ohio state troopers struck and killed Officer Francis as he was deploying tire-puncturing stop strips. Officer Francis was 42 and had worked in law enforcement for 19 years. He had twice been named Officer of the Year and had received the Chief’s Leadership Award and the Life-Saving Award. He’d been honored as Top Cop by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and earned the Ohio EMS Star of Life multiple times. Outside of police work, Officer Francis served as a volunteer firefighter and worked as a coach, substitute teacher and bus driver for Cory-Rawson High School, his alma mater. He also had a special fondness for helping the school’s softball coach – Ricki Francis, his wife since 2010. Besides his wife, he is remembered by a son and a daughter.
Agent John D. Stayrook, Medina County Drug Task Force
Agent Stayrook died on Feb. 6, 2022, after contracting COVID-19 while assisting the Brunswick Division of Police a month earlier during a drug-related traffic stop. Agent Stayrook, 60, had found his way to law enforcement later in life, after a career in construction that had taken him all over the country. His fellow task force members remember him as someone who was passionate about the drug-enforcement specialization and had a unique talent for interviewing. Agent Stayrook loved camping and spending time with his family. He is remembered by his wife, Pamela; two children; and two grandchildren.
Patrolman Sean E. VanDenberg, Lawrence Twp. Police Department
Patrolman VanDenberg died on Dec. 25, 2021, after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19, which he contracted after arresting a man and transporting him to jail. The suspect had complained of being sick and showed symptoms of COVID. Patrolman VanDenberg, who was 53, had chased his dream of becoming a police officer after a career as a mechanic, welder and fabricator – entering the Stark State College Law Enforcement Academy at age 44. His colleagues remember him as the “dad” of the department. He loved cycling, running and scuba diving, and had completed his first ultra-marathon just six months before his death. He is remembered by his wife, Jeanann; their four children; and three grandchildren.
Deputy Robert “Craig” Mills, Butler County Sheriff’s Office
Deputy Mills retired in June 2019 after more than 30 years in law enforcement, only to return several months later to the work he enjoyed at the urging of Sheriff Richard Jones. He died on Sept. 12, 2021, after a long struggle with COVID-19. His colleagues remember his excellent ability to find people named in warrants, noting how other agencies would seek him out for that expertise. Deputy Mills was passionate about baseball, having played on the Detroit Tigers Triple-A team from 1982 to 1987. Mills’ mentorship of young athletes prompted the Hamilton City Council to name the street leading to a local baseball complex in his honor. He is remembered by his wife, Anne, and two children.
Officer Edward L. Stewart, Akron Police Department
On Feb. 12, 2021, Officer Stewart died at age 60 after fighting COVID-19 for two months. Officer Stewart, an Air Force veteran, chose to serve his entire 27-year law enforcement career as a transport wagon officer for the Akron Police Department. His colleagues remember his unquenchable thirst for knowledge and his photographic memory – a gift that aided the police department in its case work. More than anything else, though, his fellow officers will never forget his abundant compassion. Officer Stewart is remembered by his wife, Lisa; two sons; and two grandsons.
Officer Kenneth C. Jones, Akron Police Department
Officer Jones died of a heart attack on Nov. 7, 2020, the day after he began feeling chest pains while responding to a domestic-assault call. Jones was 55 and had served with the Akron Police Department for 26 years, the vast majority of the time in the patrol division. His colleagues remember him as a “gentle giant” whose calmness had a way of defusing tense situations on the job. His loved ones said he was a kid at heart who enjoyed Marvel comics, Star Wars movies and amusement parks. He is remembered by his wife, Stacy, whom he had married just six weeks before his death, and three children.
The seven historical additions to the memorial wall are:
• Perry County Deputy Herbert Minshull, who was shot and killed in 1945 while attempting to serve a warrant.
• Six Dayton police officers who died of the Spanish flu contracted while on duty between 1918 and 1920: Troy E. Sine, Clement L. Francis, Emerson Glotfelter, Vinton E. Harsh, Edward M. Hennessey and Lawrence R. Graham.
“Unlike criminals and road hazards, viruses are silent and invisible – and strike from within,” AG Yost said at the ceremony. “This is a reminder that officers face more dangers than criminal violence and traffic accidents.”
Ceremonial units from many Ohio law enforcement agencies participated in today’s event, with a rider-less horse provided by the Columbus Division of Police serving as a powerful symbol of the lives lost.
For more information on each officer’s life and legacy and/or to hear from their respective departments, visit the Fallen Officers Memorial webpage on the website of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.