April 17, 2008

State of Alabama
Press Release: Lt. Governor Folsom (2007-11)

Legislature Honors Slain Police Officer

The Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Huntsville police Officer Eric Freeman, who was killed during what seemed to be a routine traffic stop, has received the Alabama Legislature's Medal of Honor for Law Enforcement Officers.

The medal was presented Thursday to Freeman's wife, Leslie, in a joint session of the Alabama House and Senate.

Freeman was shot in the head on Dec. 14 when he attempted to arrest the intoxicated driver of one of the vehicles involved in an accident. He died the next day.

"The pain you are going through now won't ever go away. The one thing we can promise you is that he will never be forgotten," Gov. Bob Riley told Leslie Freeman.

Six other law enforcement officers from across the state were also honored for heroism during the ceremony.

Freeman's parents, Kelly and Beverly Freeman, watched as their son was remembered as a hero. Beverly Freeman said her son was living his childhood dream as a police officer.

"That boy had always wanted to be a police officer," Beverly Freeman said. "Since he was four years old he was saying 'I'm going to be a police officer.'"

She described her son, Eric, as a happy man who loved his wife and his five children, all under age 10.

"He was comical. He was the jokester. He would get with the kids and make funny faces," Beverly Freeman said.

Kelly Freeman worried about his grandchildren coping without their father.

"I can't imagine his kids having to grow up without him," Kelly Freeman said.

Most of the state's top officials participated in the ceremony and praised Freeman and the other officers.

"The sacrifice law enforcement officers make is truly the most noble calling of any citizen," Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom said.

House Speaker Seth Hammett called the officers attending the ceremony "heroes among us" and called Freeman and other officers killed in the line of duty "heroes that are not with us anymore."

Other officers honored at Thursday's ceremony included:

_Lt. Ryan Bennett and Sgt. Joseph Kelly of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for rescuing five people in a boat that was stuck on the pilings of the old Gulf State Park fishing pier in Gulf Shores.

_Deputy Sheriff Gary Howell of the Cleburne County Sheriff's Department, who was shot in the face and upper body during a routine traffic stop. The shooting left Howell permanently disabled.

_Lt. Antonio Loria of the Montgomery Police Department for calming and rescuing a woman who had threatened to jump off a bridge.

_Officer Robert Sims of the Birmingham Police Department for reviving an accident victim who was unresponsive and had suffered cardiac arrest.

_Deputy Alan Rhea of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department for his actions following a Bessemer bank robbery in which four people were shot and two were killed. Rhea shot the suspect as he was fleeing the bank with a hostage and subdued the suspect.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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