Cyclists’ annual journey keeps alive the memory of Indiana fallen officers

Passing through Vincennes on U.S. 41: The local fire department set up this tremendous honor and show of respect for the riders.

Lots of miles pedaled: the group on U.S. 41 near Boswell.

Princeton Police Officer Harrison Hitch, killed in 1913, is honored at his burial site.

Story and photos by Mike Kellems

(Click photos to enlarge)

On Monday, July 10, 2017, a group of cyclists took off from the Police and Fire Memorial in Indianapolis on a 13-day journey around the Hoosier state. The mission was twofold: raise citizens’ awareness to the 443 police officers who have died in the line of duty in

Mike Kellems

the state, and honor the memories of the fallen. This is the fifth year that I’ve been on the ride.

For those who know me — all 6’4″ and 300 pounds of me — you may be rolling your eyes when you think of me on a bicycle for 13 days. Don’t kid yourself: I drive the support truck!

Cops Cycling for Survivors is the group that sponsors this ride, an annual tradition since 2001. In 2002 the riders began stopping in LaPorte for lunch when they passed through, and for the past several years the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office has hosted the riders and several local families who have lost police officers in the line of duty, including the families of LaPorte Police Sergeant Richard Lawrence and Long Beach Town Marshal James Kautz. A newcomer to this year’s LaPorte lunch stop was the family of Monroe County Sheriff’s Sergeant William Brand, who was killed in the line of duty in 2005. His surviving wife and son recently moved to LaPorte County.

The ride kicked off in Indianapolis with First Lady Janet Holcomb leading the way. In the previous two years, then Gov. and now Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen led the first leg. The first stop was the Governor’s Mansion in Indy, where the riders took a break and got to walk the grounds and tour the home.

The remainder of the ride took us to all four corners of the state: Angola, Merrillville, Princeton, Jeffersonville, and back to Indianapolis. Along the way the cyclists stop at burial sites of fallen police officers and met with surviving family members and fellow officers.

A focus of the ride is to never forget the sacrifice made by police officers as they protect the citizens of their communities. Over the decades, 13 law enforcement officers have paid the price with their lives in LaPorte County, and all 13 were remembered as the grouped passed through the county, including a stop at LaPorte County Patrolman Neil Thompson’s burial site near New Carlisle.

All total, the riders pedaled over 900 miles, met with more than 200 family members and raised over $50,000. The money raised goes to support survivors and scholarships, including the Patrolman Neil Thompson Scholarship, awarded annually by the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department.

MIKE KELLEMS is a captain with the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office and a valued contributor to WNLP.

The hills of southern Indiana prove no match for the riders! This 6% grade in Madison is five miles long. It took the riders 13 minutes to climb the hill.

Gov. Eric Holcomb addresses the riders at the opening ceremony on July 10. The ceremony is held at the police and fire memorial in Indianapolis.

Gov. Holcomb, with a hand on Trooper Andy Cochran, prays with the riders at the opening ceremony.

LaPorte County Deputy Jon Samuelson shares with the riders a memorial tribute to LaPorte County Patrolman Neil Thompson at his burial site.

Gov. Holcomb (second from right) with Linda and Louie Bixler, Patrolman Neil Thompson’s sister and brother-in-law, and LaPorte County Sheriff’s Captain Mike Kellems (left).

The tour stops at Howard County to pay honor to fallen Deputy Carl Koontz, who was killed in the line of duty March 20, 2016. An image of Deputy Koontz is featured on the side of the support truck.

The riders with the Lowell Red Devils football team. Each year the team makes a donation to the ride in honor of Merrillville Patrolman Nick Schultz, former Red Devil, who was killed in the line of duty.

Paying tribute to fallen Trooper Todd Burman in Kentland.

One Response to “Cyclists’ annual journey keeps alive the memory of Indiana fallen officers”

  1. Ggottio

    Jul 25. 2017

    Good job as always mike

    Reply to this comment

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