By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – More than 20,000 law enforcement officers in the United States have died or been killed in the line of duty since the first recorded death in 1791.
The list includes four Canadian County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies, who were commemorated Monday morning in a ceremony dedicating a new memorial monument near the entrance to the Canadian County Courthouse.
Inscribed on the monument are the names of Sam Farris, Gary Garrison, Justin Baxter and Shirley Lanning, who lost their lives providing faithful and dedicated services to Canadian County.
“We miss them dearly,” Canadian County Sheriff Chris West said.
“This monument will be here for a long time. Hopefully we won’t have to add any names to it. We had one name for 120 years – Sam Farris. Then, in the course of eight years, we added three to it.”
Families of the deputies were recognized at the May 22 dedication ceremony.
Sheriff West credited Lt. Mike Grimes for coordinating his office’s law enforcement memorial project.
West thanked Jim Craig of Boulder Designs for creating the impressive monument, and Norman and Louise Craig for helping make this project a reality.
The sheriff also offered kudos to Patrick McClung of Spraycan Creative for his graphic design and Midwest Trophy for the brass work.
“We have a product that is awesome,” West said. “It’s incredible, it’s beautiful and we love it. We’re so proud.”
Sheriff West shared his appreciation to Canadian County commissioners, who approved the placement of the memorial monument “for all to see when” they visit the sheriff’s office or the courthouse.
Commissioners proclaimed May 22 as Canadian County Sheriff’s Office Monument Memorial Presentation Day.
Commission Chairman Dave Anderson read aloud the proclamation during Monday’s service.
“It is important that we never forget the duties and responsibilities of the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office to serve the people by safeguarding life and property, by protecting them against violence or disorder and by protecting the innocent against deception and the weak against oppression and intimidation,” Anderson said.
Since 1963, the United States has observed May 15 as “Peace Officer Memorial Day.”
There are about 900,000 law enforcement officers serving in communities across the country – including the dedicated members of the CCSO.
Undersheriff Kevin Ward read the histories of Canadian County four fallen sheriff’s deputies:
- SAM FARRIS: Deputy Sheriff Sam Farris died May 23, 1894, two days after being shot in a gunfight in front of a Yukon saloon while trying to apprehend two brothers wanted for murdering a rancher. One of the outlaws managed to escape but was later captured by a posse and died from gunshot wounds. The second man was arrested, then was shot and killed trying to escape from jail. Farris is believed to be buried in an unmarked grave in a Yukon cemetery.
- GARY GARRISON: Sgt. Gary Garrison was 64 years old and a 17-year CCSO veteran when he suffered a fatal heart attack while on duty Feb. 1, 2014, at 164th and U.S. Highway 81. Garrison was a veteran of the U.S. Army and worked at the Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno before joining the sheriff’s department.
- SHIRLEY LANNING: While driving her unmarked county vehicle, Lt. Shirley Lanning on Feb. 14, 2020, suffered a medical emergency and collided with a van on N.W. Expressway between Sara and Morgan roads. The sheriff’s investigator died from her injuries. Lanning had worked in law enforcement for about 30 years, including time with the United States Marshal’s Office, Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office and University of Central Oklahoma Police Department.
- JUSTIN BAXTER: Deputy Justin Baxter was 32 years old when he died of a heart attack Sept. 8, 2022. Baxter had recently completed his shift during which he transported several high-risk felony prisoners to the Canadian County Jail and other facilities across Oklahoma. Baxter joined the CCSO shortly before his death, after serving in the National Guard for seven years and working in Geary and Canton.
Canadian County Assistant District Attorney Tommy Humphries has worked alongside hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies across Oklahoma for more than 20 years.
“I value those relationships and have tremendous respect for those who answer the call to serve,” Humphries told the audience. “I believe for most it is a calling because it requires so much sacrifice.
“Deputies and other officers place their lives and their health on the line every day in an effort to provide peace and safety to our communities. It is a sacrifice that is made not only by each officer, but also their families.”
Farris, Garrison, Lanning, and Baxter made the ultimate sacrifice after dedicating their lives and service to the greater good.
“My continued thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of those deputies,” Humphries said. “Please know that your sacrifice matters and will not be forgotten.”
Others participating in CCSO’s Law Enforcement Memorial Monument dedication ceremony were:
- Retired U.S. Marshal, Oklahoma City Police Major and Yukon Deputy Police Chief Mike Roach, who offered the opening prayer.
- CCSO Sgt. Tim Peters, CCSO Deputy Jeff Bouillon, OKC Police Honor Guard members Kyle Erickson and Pablo Ortiz, who lowered the U.S. and Oklahoma flags to half-staff.
- Canadian County sheriff’s investigator Brad Neff, who earned hearty applause after singing a song.
- OKC Police MSgt. Gary Smith, who performed “Taps” on the trumpet; and MSgt. Cliff Mueggenborg, who played the bagpipes to conclude the service.