SANDPOINT — Bonner County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Gagnon, who was shot in line of duty earlier this year, was given a standing ovation during the 2017 Peace Officers Memorial ceremony on Monday.
“He’s tougher than me, I’ll tell you that,” said Sheriff Daryl Wheeler, who hosted the annual remembrance.
Gagnon and Deputy Justin Penn were seriously wounded in a hail of gunfire while attempted to serve an arrest warrant in Blanchard on Jan. 16.
Gagnon, 53, said law enforcement runs in his family, although he didn’t embrace the profession until later in his life.
“But I have no regrets, not for one second, for having followed my family into this career,” said Gagnon, who returned to active duty on May 7.
Gagnon said the service would be a bad fit for those who can’t brook being abused by the public, missing important family events or late-night counseling sessions with drunks.
“However, if working with some of the finest and most dedicated men and women you’ll ever meet, consider law enforcement. It may be for you,” Gagnon said.
Gagnon noted that 66 law officers have died in the line of duty in Idaho since it became a state. Three of those deaths occurred fairly recently and close to home — Coeur d’Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore in 2015, Idaho State Police Trooper Linda Huff in 1998 and U.S. Forest Service Officer Brent Jacobson in 1989.
“They chose a career that expects them to run to danger while others run away,” Gagnon said.
Gagnon used three words to sum up what the memorial day means for him — remember, honor and understand, a slogan he picked up while visiting the USS Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor. He was also reminded of the bone-deep sense of camaraderie law officers share with their brethren and was struck by Penn’s remarks when they resolved to arrest Adam Deacon Foster.
“My 30-year-old partner — a man I have known for less than five years — says, ‘I was not going to let you go by yourself,’” Gagnon said, adding that he was blessed with having a partner such as Penn.
Monday’s ceremony featured an honor guard composed of Sandpoint police and firefighters, an opening prayer by Chaplain Mike Szotkowkski and a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace” played by Rex Barraclough. Sandpoint Police Chief Corey Coon, Ponderay Police Chief Mike Victorino and Priest River Police Sgt. Chris Davis took turns reading aloud the names of Idaho peace officers who paid the ultimate price while protecting public safety.
“It’s been a disastrous year,” Wheeler said of the 48 law officers who died in America in 2017. “It’s not a good number.”
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.