Next week marks 20 years since the Gwinnett County Police Department lost an officer in the line of duty. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of their first three losses. Chief Charles Walters decided now was the time to honor their lives.
“We’ve never as a police department ever done a police memorial service and we felt it was time,” said Walters. “We felt it was time that we recognize as a police department get in and recognize not only the sacrifices that those four men made, but also the 19,000 names on the wall [of the National Law Enforcement Memorial] in Washington.”
Those four men are Marvin J. Gravitt, Jerry R. Everett, Ralph K. Davis and James C. Magill.
Gravitt, Everett and Davis were shot and killed on April 17, 1964. The three were responding to a suspicious activity call and found a group stripping a vehicle. Their patrol car was found the following day. All three men’s bodies were found handcuffed together a short distance away. The officers were shot a total of 14 times. Three suspects were arrested and sentenced to death, which were later commuted to life in prison. One of the suspects was a deputy sheriff who knew the officers.
Magill was struck and killed by a drunk driver on May 23, 1993. He was sitting in his cruiser waiting for a tow truck to remove a car involved in a previous drunk driving accident when his car was hit. The suspect was sentenced to 13 years for vehicular assault.
The names of the four are engraved on a stone at the training center.
Active officers and police academy recruits came to the memorial to pay their respects to their fallen brothers.
Two wreaths were laid in front of the memorial before the GCPD Honor Guard fired off a 21-gun salute. A bugler played taps before three helicopters from both Gwinnett and Dekalb Police Departments’ Aviation units flew overhead.
Walters asked those in attendance, including Magill’s relatives, to remember the four both in and out of their uniforms.
“It’s not about how they ended their lives, it’s about how they lived their lives,” said Walters as he choked back tears.