Local officers take part in Cops Cycling for Survivors event

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Scott Derby and Monica Zahasky stand with Greenfield Police Chief Brian Hartman during a brief ceremony honoring fallen police officers. Police officers and supporters rode through Greenfield during the Cops Cycling for Survivors 22nd Anniversary Ride.

GREENFIELD — A piece of paper taped to the handle bar area of one of the bicycles mapped out the route the riders will be taking each day during a 13 day tribute ride. There was also a statement at the bottom of the paper for inspiration that said, “Doing what others don’t, won’t or can’t.”

Under a bright summer sky dozens of police officers and supporters of law enforcement rolled into the Greenfield Police Department, GPD, parking lot Monday morning following a long bicycle ride from Indianapolis.

Among them rode GPD patrolman Rick Wilcher, a 19 year veteran of the department. Wilcher was one of several Indiana officers along with friends of law enforcement participating in the 22nd Annual Cycling for Survivors ride which travels through Indiana each year to pay tribute to fallen officers and their families.

“It’s been a good ride so far,” Wilcher said after grabbing a drink of water. “I’ve ridden over 4,500 miles so far this year so I’m really looking forward to this 13 day ride.”

Wilcher, who was riding in the annual event for the first time, said he wanted to participate during the last year of his law enforcement career to honor fallen officers. He represented the GPD along with local resident David Conner.

Conner has been a huge supporter of law enforcement and went through the GPD Citizens Academy several years ago and has helped with the department’s D.A.R.E. program. Conner noted it was his honor to ride and show support for families of fallen officers.

“I’ve had many friends and family who are law enforcement officials and unfortunately some of them have been killed along the way,” Conner said. “Being from Greenfield and seeing the people come out and represent the cause means so much to law enforcement who put it all on the line each day.”

The ride made its way through Greenfield Monday morning before heading to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department then onto Richmond, just two of several stops along the tribute ride. Mayor Chuck Fewell and others thanked the riders as they rested for a few minutes at GPD before heading back out.

“It’s a bitter sweet thing,” Fewell said in support of the event. “We love what the riders are doing but hate the reason.”

The ride pays respect to Indiana’s fallen law enforcement heroes and lets their survivors know they and their loved ones are not forgotten.

“This goes back to what we’ve always said, which is fallen officers and their families will never be forgotten,” GPD Chief of Police Brian Hartman said. “It doesn’t matter if it happened last week or 10, 20 or even 30 years ago, we will never forget you.”

The motto of Cops Cycling for Survivors is, “Riding to Remember,” and each year the group works to honor officers killed in the line of duty throughout Indiana’s history.

“We like taking part in this, but what little we do is nothing compared to what the riders do training and then riding hundreds of miles each day,” Hartman said. “This is no easy task.”

The riders had a departure ceremony at 8 a.m. Monday at the Police and Fire Fighters Memorial on the capitol grounds in downtown Indianapolis. Cyclists departed shortly after comments by Indiana Law Enforcement Academy Executive Director, Tim Horty.

The Cops Cycling for Survivors annual bike ride consists of active and retired police officers, law enforcement survivors, law enforcement family members and friends of law enforcement riding their bicycles around the perimeter of Indiana to raise funds and awareness of the sacrifices made by Hoosier law enforcement families across Indiana. Funds raised from the event are used to perpetuate the memories of officers killed in the line-of-duty and to aid surviving family members and co-workers of officers killed in the line-of-duty.

Previously raised funds have been directly donated to foundations, scholarships and camps that have been started in memory of fallen officers or by Indiana survivors in honor of their fallen heroes.

During the stop in Greenfield, Hartman read a tribute to fallen GPD officer William (Will) Phillips, 32, who died on Sept. 30, 2010 after he was struck while bicycle riding in Henry County. A tribute was also read for fallen Hancock County Sheriff’s Capt. Malcolm E. Grass, who was shot and killed May 8, 1986 when he was assisting the FBI with an extortion case. His wife Carolyn Grass, who is now 81, was there to show her appreciation.

“We’re so thankful for what the riders do every year for the fallen and I just can’t get over the dedication that these riders have,” she said. “We’re very thankful, but it’s always so emotional.”

While Cops Cycling for Survivors honors all Indiana’s line-of-duty death officers, recognized by state and federal officials as receiving line of duty death benefits, this year’s ride pays special tribute to the four officers who died in 2022; Deputy Sheriff Noah Rainey, Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, End of Watch January 29, 2022; Deputy Sheriff Douglas Sanford, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, End of Watch March 29, 2022; Police Officer Noah Shahnavaz, Elwood Police Department, End of Watch July 31, 2022; and Police Officer Seara Burton, Richmond Police Department, End of Watch September 18, 2022.

Also honored this year is Correctional Officer Gary Weinke, Indiana Department of Correction, End of Watch April 25, 2020, who was recognized by officials as a line of duty death in 2022. Officers recognized by state and federal officials as line-of-duty deaths in 2023 will be honored in 2024.

The ride is scheduled to conclude Saturday, July 22 at Crown Hill Cemetery, Heroes of Public Safety Section. The closing ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter will provide the closing message and all are welcome to attend.