Sunday, February 25, 2024

Supes approve memorial highway in honor of James City County fallen officer

A memorial for Sgt. Earl Heisler, a James City County Police officer who was killed in 1978, stands in front of the law enforcement center. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
A memorial for Sgt. Earl Heisler, a James City County Police officer who was killed in 1978, stands in front of the law enforcement center. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

A section of Centerville Road will now be named after James City County’s only officer killed in the line of duty: Sgt. Earl “Buddy” Heisler.

The James City County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the consent calendar on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, which included the item to name about 1.3 miles of county road after Heisler.

Heisler and his family lived in that stretch of road for a time while he was alive, according to county documents.

Heisler was killed while on duty Sept. 19, 1978 in the county near the Williamsburg city line. He entered a parking lot while investigating a series of burglaries at a nearby apartment complex to find a vehicle with three people sitting inside. 

He began a search of the vehicle after seeing a bag of marijuana on the back seat, at which time the driver of the vehicle, Ronald Dale Thatcher, took Heisler’s gun, turned it on the officer, and shot him in the face.

Thatcher was granted parole in March 2018.

“… Earl M. “Buddy” Heisler, served the residents of James City County exceptionally in his role as a Sergeant and Deputy Sheriff,” the resolution reads. “Sgt. Heisler served the residents of James City County in an exceptional manner for over six years and was devoted to both his family and this community.”

Now, the issue will move on to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which will vote on approving the name. If approved, the Virginia Department of Transportation will erect signs to memorialize the stretch of road, between News Road and Monticello Avenue as “Earl M. “Buddy” Heisler Memorial Highway.”

James City County would be responsible for the cost of producing, placing and maintaining the signs.

The idea to name something in James City County after Heisler came about more than a year ago when a county resident wrote a letter to the Board of Supervisors. 

Shortly after, then-interim County Administrator Bill Porter said officials were working to identify a section of road to be named after Heisler. 

The process slowed after that, but resurfaced in May 2019. Supervisors later opened discussions about policies to name county buildings, roads and other facilities after people or things, directing Assistant County Administrator Jason Purse to develop more formal policies for naming.

Heisler is also recognized by a plaque on a sign at the entrance of the county Law Enforcement Center

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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