Today marks the fifth anniversary of the deaths of two respected local law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty in Bastrop.
On Aug. 10, 2007, Bastrop Police detective sergeants John Smith and Charles “Chuck” Wilson died in an unexpected confrontation with a Houston fugitive at the Best Budget Inn downtown. The tragic incident left three people dead — including the gunman, Dennis Clem — and two emergency personnel wounded.
Five years later, Bastrop Police Chief Downey Black said Smith and Wilson are still spoken of often.
“There are many times we talk about John and Chuck,” he said. “We run across cases all the time that they worked.”
Former police chief Alan Freeman told the Enterprise at the time of the incident that Aug. 10, 2007, was “the saddest day of my entire life.”
Today, Freeman reflects on how much Smith and Wilson were assets to the department and how much they truly cared about the citizens they worked to protect.
“They went further than was expected of them,” Freeman said. “If there were elderly people in the community who thought they were going to be burglarized, these two men would sit in their cars outside the homes on their off times to make the people feel safer.”
Freeman said the men didn’t receive overtime payment for these extra efforts and they didn’t expect recognition for it, either.
“They wouldn’t come in the next morning and talk about it,” he said. “The only way I would find out they did it was when the elderly person would come in and talk about seeing their car the night before at the end of their driveway.
“We might get busy, but there is no reason we should forget,” he said. “They were always about serving and protecting Bastrop, and they gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
A Smith-Wilson Law Enforcement Scholarship fund was set up soon after the officers were killed.
Mark Rainwater, chairman of the board of directors for the scholarship fund, said former city mayor Clarence Hawkins approached him a week after their deaths, asking for an idea to “carry on their legacy.”
“We came up with the idea for the scholarship fund for Morehouse Parish students who wanted to study criminal justice or law enforcement,” he said. “We initially started this for kids in Morehouse Parish, but we now help kids in Ouachita Parish as well.”
Rainwater said students who want to apply for the scholarship may fill out an application with their school’s guidance counselor.
“If the student is selected, we pay for eight semesters of their college,” he said. “Right now we have three students who will graduate from [the University of Louisiana at Monroe] in 2013. We have three other students who attend colleges throughout the state.”
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A remembrance service will be held for Smith and Wilson at 1:35 today in the Bastrop City Hall courtyard. A wreath will be placed on the memorial of the two men while the flag is lowered.