DAZE WORK: Latest police tragedy hits too close to home

Monday, July 12, 2021

The latest killing of a police officer last week hit too close to home for members of the Greencastle Police Department.

The shooting death of Det. Greg Ferency, a 30-year veteran of the Terre Haute Police Department, was the third slaying of a police officer in Vigo County in recent years.

Ferency was ambushed by his reported assailant, Shane Meehan, 44, Terre Haute, outside the federal building in Terre Haute after Meehan, a one-time Terre Haute mayoral candidate, tossed a molotov cocktail at the building. When the police officer walked out, Meehan reportedly shot him.

Greg Ferency

The violence weighs heavy on the hearts of police officers everywhere, and certainly in Greencastle, just 40 miles away. Just like firefighters, police officers grieve when one of their brethren is lost.

“I hope and pray we never have that happen in our community,” Greencastle Police Chief Tom Sutherlin told the City Council at its July meeting. “This is the third police officer Terre Haute PD has lost in the last 10 years.

“That’s too close to home. Yes, too close to home,” Sutherlin said.

“When it happens in Indianapolis or it happens in Terre Haute, we’re smack dab in the middle of it,” the chief continued. “People need to understand that Greencastle is a great community but that same event could happen here just as we’re standing here speaking. We’re not immune to any type of event like that.”

Certainly being a police officer is a serious and dangerous career choice. It’s no easy job, not even for Greencastle City Police officers or Putnam County Sheriff’s Office deputies.

When they make a traffic stop, for instance, they are never quite sure who’s behind the wheel. With major federal highways (U.S. 231, 40 and 36) crisscrossing Putnam County and Interstate 70 traversing the width of the county in its southern quadrant, local officers could be confronting nefarious characters from anywhere. They’re never sure whether they’ve just stopped Jack Tripper or Jack the Ripper. Although it’s part of the job, finding out can be potentially dangerous or deadly.

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was arrested on a traffic stop for having no license plate. A bulge under his shirt turned out to be a concealed weapon. The infamous Ted Bundy was stopped several times for violations before he was known to be a serial killer.

Even Larry Eyler, the Crawfordsville native who grew up in Greencastle and was a liquor store clerk here during his reign of terror, was stopped for having a tail light out on U.S. 41 in northern Indiana. Eyler even had a likely victim in his truck on the stop before authorities knew he was responsible for the murders of some two dozen young men in Indiana and Illinois.

Situations like that are the reason GPD continues to train and stay vigilante and tries to be prepared. The department takes its training seriously and has 10 or 12 officers who are certified instructors who are often asked to assist in training at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.

“You can’t always be prepared for everything,” Sutherlin said. “You know, some of this stuff I’ve heard on the news, there’s no explanation.”

With GPD having a number of younger officers among its ranks these days, Sutherlin was asked to gauge the morale of the department.

“I think within the office, it’s good,” he responded. “But when you look and see what’s going on across the nation, and how people portray police officers, it can get you down.

“It’s gut-wrenching, but you know, as we walked out of the restaurant today (Thursday), there was a group of workers there that’s doing construction work in our community, and one of the gentlemen stopped and said, ‘That was a messed-up deal what happened in Terre Haute.’ He goes, ‘You guys watch your backs and be safe.’”

Sutherlin said people in the community support the police.

“We know that. We hear that,” the chief added.

“But it is kind of a tough time to encourage someone to become a police officer in terms of today’s society,” he added, even though this year’s police boot camp had record numbers. “I’m not saying it’s in this community but when you look at society and hear cities and towns talking about defunding the police and taking things away ... We know as police officers that doesn’t work.

“So just continue to support us, that’s all we ask.”

Support your local police. That seems like a perfectly reasonable request.

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  • God Bless our law enforcement officers. They are protecting us 24/7, not knowing what could happen on any shift night or day. Please BACK THE BLUE and show them the respect they deserve.

    -- Posted by Queen53 on Tue, Jul 13, 2021, at 10:12 AM
  • May God continue to watch over our LEO community - we need them...and they need us. I will always BACK THE BLUE and teach my kids to do the same.

    -- Posted by infiremanemt on Thu, Jul 15, 2021, at 4:31 PM
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