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Welcomed by a crowd of cheering fans, more than 150 riders and support personnel riding to honor fallen law enforcement stopped at the Yorktown Waterfront for a quick lunch break Sunday.
Among the bicyclists were four of York County’s own: Lt. Jeff Kerr and deputies Andy Brown, Aaron Frye and Danny Diaz from the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office.
Joining them on motorcycles and trucks were deputies Johnny Mercer and Steve Lewis and Deputy First Class David Safer and Deputy First Class Damon Radcliffe.
They, along with members from 23 law enforcement offices across the country, are on a three-day, 250-mile trek from Portsmouth to Washington D.C., riding for the memory of law enforcement officers who have died on the job.
The riders covered 110 miles Sunday before stopping in Tappahannock. On Monday, they traveled 65 miles — they accounted for rough hills along the way — before stopping in Fredericksburg for the night, and today they complete the last 75 miles to Washington, D.C.
“It’s a huge awareness thing,” said Kerr, who recruited riders at the sheriff’s offices in York and Gloucester, where he resides. “It reminds all of us, every year, how much we are at risk every time we go to work.”
Kerr is riding for the 11th consecutive year, along with Mercer, who provides support on his motorcycle. The two return to ride every year for the camaraderie and to honor the fallen.
“Nobody has rank here,” Kerr said, adding he has formed friendships with law enforcement officers from across the country through the annual ride.
Although no one from the Sheriff's Office has died while on duty, the county lost two Virginia State Troopers — Garland Miller in 1963 and Donald Lovelace in 1970 — and National Park Ranger Gregory Burdine, who died while pursuing a car for speeding near Bellfield Plantation in 1977.
Law enforcement officers participating in the tour were required to raise a minimum of $2,000, which will go toward the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C. At the end of the three-day ride, a candlelight vigil will be held at the memorial Wednesday.
They will be joined by bicyclists participating in a similar tour called Law Enforcement United who took off from Chesapeake on Sunday. Two YPSO deputies — Sean Robinson and Jason Cherry — are among the Chesapeake riders.
They will also be met by other chapters of the Police Unity Tour hailing from New Jersey.
To date, the Police Unity Tour has raised $525,000, most of which has come from the public. Retired Police Officer Hugh Miller, who is from Tampa, Fla., serves as treasurer for the tour, said the money raised gives him hope during a time when the actions of police are being questioned.
“America is still behind their law enforcement officers,” Miller said.
Kerr’s wife Shannon, who is meeting up with her husband and the other riders throughout the tour with their children, said she is lucky and proud to be a police wife.
“When he leaves us every night, there’s no guarantee he’s going to come back,” she said. “He’s out there making a difference.”