Fallen officer leaves ‘a tremendous void’
By Matt Zapotosky and Maggie Fazeli Fard,
The dignity and ceremony was something that Prince George’s County Police Officer Adrian Morris would have appreciated — hundreds of officers from around the region donning their formal dress coats and white gloves; bagpipers filling the air with solemn strains.
Morris, after all, had always preferred wearing his gray dress uniform to his blue utility clothes. Sure, he was a prankster with an infectious laugh, but the 23-year-old took pride in his work and paid attention to the little things that it took to be a police officer, colleagues said at his funeral Tuesday.
“He made a lasting impression on our agency not only with his co-workers, but with the community as well,” Prince George’s Police Chief Mark Magaw said.“His loss has left us with a tremendous void.”
Morris — the 27th Prince George’s police officer to die in the line of duty — was killed in a car crash last week after he lost control of his police cruiser while chasing two men in a stolen Acura on Interstate 95. Detectives have arrested two men — Kenneth Clark Mitchell Jr., 24, of the District, and Kevon Darnell Neal, 23, of Fort Washington — in connection with the incident and charged them with felony theft.
An officer who was riding with Morris was injured but survived.
At Woodstream Church in Mitchellville on Tuesday, colleagues and officials remembered Morris as a dedicated officer who never let his small stature get in the way of his outsized aspirations. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and Prince George’s police union president Vince Canales were among those who spoke, noting the sacrifice that Morris made in the name of public service.
“In the end,” Canales said, “he died being a policeman.”
Morris, who grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt and first became involved with the Prince George’s Police Department at age 16, when he enrolled in the Police Explorers program.
Officer Kenneth Hibbert, who mentored Morris in the program, said that when he first met “Ant” — as Morris was known to some on the department because his middle name was Antonio — the aspiring officer challenged him to a footrace.
Hibbert said that he won the race but was exhausted. When other explorers challenged him to race them, too, he declined. “I said, I’m done for the day. I can barely walk,” Hibbert recalled.
“Adrian Morris was more than a police officer to me. He was more than an explorer to me. He was my little brother,” Hibbert said. “I’ve seen Officer Morris go from a kid to a young man, from a young man to one of the best police officers Prince George’s County ever had.”
During one part of the ceremony, Morris’s mother, Sherrin Crosdale, and other family members and officers watched as photos of the young officer flashed on the wall. They showed Morris huddled with friends, enjoying a wedding with fellow officers and in his dress uniform.
Linval Crosdale, Morris’s uncle, said after the funeral that his nephew went through the Police Explorers program while working at a CVS pharmacy, and thought one day he might pursue a career in pharmacology.
Crosdale said Morris enjoyed soccer, basketball and playing video games in his free time, though he was intensely dedicated to his police work. He said his nephew’s uniform was “prepared and worn with precision” and that “the force was family” to him.
That family — from agencies across the region — came out by the hundreds, standing shoulder to shoulder in the church parking lot and straightening their backs as a parade of motorcycles rolled in just before 10:30 a.m. Minutes later, the black hearse carrying Morris’s body pulled up and silence gave way to solemn bagpipe music. Six burly Prince George’s officers, wearing formal dress blue uniforms and white gloves, removed Morris’s flag-draped casket.
What followed was a spiritual ceremony, punctuated by songs, poems and personal stories from some of Morris’s colleagues. Michael Risher, the officer riding with Morris when he crashed, lit a candle. Officer Michael Owens spoke of how he and Morris would go to the shooting range together, competing for the most head shots.
“He was my friend,” Owens said. “He was my brother, and I loved him.”
Just before 12:20 p.m., the hundreds of officers who had followed Morris’s casket into the church emerged, forming a line outside the entrance. As the body was brought out, color guards from around the region again raised their flags, giving a final salute to their fallen brother.