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Police Unity Tour officers fallen officers

By Shavonne Potts
spotts@salisburypost.com
A group of cyclists riding through Rowan County stopped in Salisbury on Monday to honor law enforcement officers who’ve died in the line of duty.
All 18 riders are part of the Police Unity Tour and are from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. They’re riding to the nation’s capitol to raise money and bring awareness of those who have lost their lives protecting the public.
The tour got its start in 1997 when Patrick Montuore, then an officer with the Florham Park Police Department in New Jersey and now its chief, wanted to raise money for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. He gathered a group of officers and they rode their mountain bikes from New Jersey to Washington, D.C., the site of the memorial. Since that time, the tour has grown into an annual event and raised more than $3 million for a memorial fund.
The officers on the southern leg of this year’s tour began their trek Friday in Charleston, S.C. They’re aiming for seven to eight hours of biking a day, said Rich Gallo, who organized the southern leg along with Carl Walters. Gallo and Walters began biking in 2005 and in the three years following added more riders.
Gallo, a federal agent from New York, and his group will cover a total of 800 miles. The halfway point was in Landis, which they reached earlier Monday.
They stayed overnight in Rock Hill, S.C., before heading this way, he said.
Along the way, the tour has hit Walterboro, S.C., Moncks Corner, S.C., and Orangeburg, S.C. The riders will go on to Hillsborough and Edenton in North Carolina, through Virginia Beach and finally arrive in Washington early next week.
Gallo called it an “absolute honor” to ride in memory of fallen law enforcement officers.
“All of us feel the same way. It’s an honor and privilege to ride and bring tribute where tribute is due,” he said.
This marks the third year Brian Havican, a patrol officer with the West Allis Police Department in West Allis, Wis., has ridden in the tour.
Havican said it was great to meet the family and friends of officers who’ve died.
“The support we see is great. It makes it worth the ride,” he said. “We are here for the survivors.”
Stafford Brister, who works for the Wilmington Police Department, has also been participating three years. He got involved when his lieutenant rode one year and told Brister about the tour.
“It’s very moving to see the survivors. Sometimes you don’t know what to say because you know you can’t ease their pain,” he said.
Brister said he hopes the tour will let survivors know that, though they may not have come from the same department as those fallen officers, they are all family and they all feel the loss.
“We don’t share the same type of pain, but we still feel the pain,” he said.
Area law enforcement agencies participated in the Salisbury ceremony, including the Salisbury Police Department and the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office. Many more area agencies provided escorts to the cyclists through town.
The Police Unity Tour also raises money for ongoing maintenance of the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and to have the names of officers killed in the line of duty engraved on its walls. The riders also provide support for surviving family and friends.
Riders in the tour come from New Jersey, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida. The youngest rider is 26 and the oldest is 57, Gallo said.
Monday evening, the cyclists were headed to Lexington. Today, they will continue on to Hillsborough.
For more information about the Police Unity Tour, log on to www.policeunitytour.org.

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