By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Heartache that has weighed on many in Prince George's County law enforcement since the killing of an officer in June began to lift yesterday with the roar of more than 600 motorcycles and a tribute the slain man's family said would not be forgotten.
In a procession that stretched more than two miles, hundreds of police, firefighters and other riders crisscrossed Prince George's on bikes surrounded by police escorts to remember Cpl. Richard S. Findley, who was run down June 27 while trying to stop the driver of a suspected stolen truck. The man accused of hitting Findley, Ronnie L. White, was found dead in his county jail cell two days after Findley died. Many officers have said that the suspicions surrounding White's death have made it hard to mourn Findley properly.
"It was a bit more peaceful," said Sherri Kennedy, Findley's sister, comparing the family barbecue atmosphere that followed the ride to the heaviness that surrounded Findley's memorial, funeral and much of the news since. "There are definitely some people who are still mourning, but it gives us more of a sense of peace today. . . . I'm very proud to see the amount of people who have come out to show their support."
The ride is the first of two that Findley's former colleagues from the Beltsville Volunteer Fire Department, Prince George's County Police Department and elsewhere in county law enforcement have organized to help Findley's widow, Kelly Findley, pay bills and possibly save for college for the couple's two young daughters.
"In twenty-some years of police work, I've been to as many funerals where I knew the police officer who was killed, and it's stuff like this that puts the positive back into the life of the family," said Rocky Roccapriore, acting captain with the Prince George's County Sheriff's Department who helped coordinate the ride. "We raise some good funds; help out the kids. This is the way we serve the family. That's what it's all about."
Kelly Findley led the procession, riding on the back of a bike with her husband's former boss from the county's Beltsville police station. Her younger daughter rode in a truck with the Beltsville fire chief.
"I don't know if a lot of people on the road realized what it was all about, but I think they figured it out," said Mike Delia, who rose before dawn yesterday to join the ride from his Prince Frederick home. "There were a lot of flags, a lot of waving."
The 73-mile ride began in Laurel at Old Glory Harley-Davidson, whose owners had renamed the street in front of their business in memory of the last county officer killed in the line of duty, Cpl. Steven Gaughan. Gaughan had trained Findley, a 10-year veteran, and the two had remained close friends until Gaughan was killed in 2005. Findley had a tattoo of Gaughan's badge number on his leg.
After the ride, more than 800 people gathered at the Main Street Sports Grill in Laurel. Each rider paid $25, and hundreds of others paid an entrance fee, with all proceeds going to the family. A tattoo artist was on hand, and a few of Findley's colleagues marked the occasion with permanent tributes -- including palm trees and ankles to handcuffs on biceps.
"It's the brotherhood, that's what it's all about," Dawn Jackson said as she admired the spectacle. Neither Jackson nor her husband is in law enforcement, and they did not know Findley. They said they came out for the cause.
"Just the idea that you knew that you had guys who stood behind you and that they thought enough of you and your family to make sure you're looked after, that's really great," said Darrel Jackson. "Unfortunately, we all know money still makes the world go around, so to go say 'hi' to Kelly or something is a plus, but to be able to put something away for her and the kids, that's what's needed."