Four names are forever etched into the hearts of Medina County law enforcement.
They are the fallen.
Killed in the line of duty.
Gone but not forgotten.
Saturday, members of law enforcement gathered at local cemeteries to place memorial plaques at the gravesites of the four fallen officers. It is a yearly tradition that ushers in the start of National Police Week, which runs today through Sunday. Across the country, hundreds of departments will pause to remember those who sacrificed their lives in law enforcement.
Don Searle, a former detective in the Medina Police Department and former trustee for the Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial Society, said there are groups from across the country because officers understand the need to “memorialize and remember the officers who gave their lives in the line of duty.
Men like John Gates, Joseph Baca, Carl Summers and Mark Decker.
Gates, who is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Medina, died April 18, 1916, at the age of 57. He was a night watchman who was shot at a local grocery store by the city marshal who had a long-standing grudge against him. Gates had served with the Medina Police Department for eight years.
Baca, who is also buried in Spring Grove, died in the line of duty Aug. 26, 1976.
He was a sheriff’s deputy at the time and he was responding to a domestic disturbance call between a husband and wife.
While trying to place the husband under arrest, Baca was pushed over and fell into a bee’s nest where he was stung several times. He finally got the man in custody and returned to his vehicle where he collapsed. He suffered a heart attack as a result of an allergic reaction to the bee venom and died.
He was 57.
His son, Chief Deputy Kenneth Baca, has served with the Medina County Sheriff’s Office since 1974.
In December 1977, Lodi police Capt. Carl Summers was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while conducting an investigation. He was 31. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Lodi.
Brunswick resident Decker and his partner, members of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Police, were shot during a routine stop and questioning of a suspicious person at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Brecksville. He was only carrying mace due to administrative guidelines and was killed instantly when the man pulled out a .45-caliber handgun and opened fire.
He was 31. He is buried at Eastlawn Memory Gardens in Brunswick.
“There are a lot of really unusual deaths like that,” said Searle. “They’re not all gunshots or stabbings or anything like that.”
The yearly remembrances serve to not only honor the fallen, but to let their families know they are not forgotten, Searle said.
“I think, a lot of times, the survivors feel like they’ve been cheated out of the lives of their loved ones, and it’s really important to them that people acknowledge that you respect what they have done and that their loved one will never ever be forgotten for what he’s done,” he said.
An American flag, police flag and plaque were placed at each gravesite by officers from the Medina police, Sheriff’s Office, Seville police, Hinckley police, Lodi police, Montville police and the U.S. Marshals Service.