Florida – We’ve just received word that a police officer in Lakeland, Florida was killed on Thursday morning as he made his way into work.

The tragic news comes on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. 

According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the fallen officer was identified as 50-year-old Paul Dunn.

“About 5:45 this morning we received a 911 call about a vehicle crash,” the sheriff said in a press briefing on Thursday morning. 

Officer Dunn was reportedly on his way into work when the crash occurred. 

“We don’t know at this time why his motorcycle left the roadway, hit the median and crashed.”

The sheriff said that authorities are investigating claims that another vehicle may have forced the officer off the road, causing him to leave the roadway and become involved in the fatal crash, but investigators have not fully confirmed that.

According to initial reports, Dunn was riding to work on his Harley Davidson Police Road King motorcycle, heading north on Lakeland-Highlands Road just south of Lake Miriam Drive when the crash occurred.

 

One of the first people on scene, a local deputy’s wife, described what she witnessed as she came across the accident.

“I could see lights in the area but nothing else. As I came closer, I saw it was a police officer and a motorcycle down in the road.”

A nurse practitioner stopped along with other motorists and began to perform CPR, noting that the officer had a very weak pulse. 

As emergency responders arrived at the scene, a crew transported Dunn to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

 

According to the sheriff’s office, Dunn lived just a few minutes away from where the crash happened. He is being remembered as an incredible officer who always had a smile on his face.

“All we know for sure at this point in the investigation is that he left the roadway, hit a median, lost control of the motorcycle and ultimately crashed. He then died as a result of the crash,” they said in a statement.

The investigation is ongoing, but authorities are pursuing every lead. 

“We will leave no stone unturned.”

The press briefing was held as choked up law enforcement officials provided details to reporters.

“This is our family,” the sheriff said to reporters. “Bad things happen to good people every day.”

This article will be updated as more information becomes available. 

On Thursday, January 9, the 5th Annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Day will be happening all across the nation. This day was created by Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), the national nonprofit with a mission to rebuild the shattered lives of survivors and co-workers affected by line-of-duty death.

Officer Down: Sheriff says cop killed in motorcycle crash after being forced off roadway

You might be asking yourself a few questions:

When did Law Enforcement Appreciation Day become a thing?

Why is this only the fifth year it exists?

What exactly happens on this day?

And hopefully you are asking “How can I get involved?”

Officer Down: Sheriff says cop killed in motorcycle crash after being forced off roadway

Let’s go ahead and address all of these. C.O.P.S., which again is the organization that works with the families and co-workers who have suffered through the unimaginable tragedy of losing a loved one in the line-of-duty, got fed up with all the violence that was happening towards law enforcement at the end of 2014.

It was a scary time for officers. It was a scary time for their families.

And it was a scary time for law enforcement survivors who were forced to watch attacks on their blue family, for which their family had already sacrificed so much.

Officer Down: Sheriff says cop killed in motorcycle crash after being forced off roadway

So at the end of December 2014, the C.O.P.S. national board reached out to other law enforcement organizations across America. With full support, the date of January 9th was selected and promotion began to “Take the LEAD”, with LEAD being an acronym for Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.

Did you know that Law Enforcement Today has a private new home for those who support emergency responders and veterans? It’s called LET Unity, and it’s where we share the untold stories of those patriotic Americans. Every penny gets reinvested into giving these heroes a voice. Check it out today.

Officer Down: Sheriff says cop killed in motorcycle crash after being forced off roadway

We can’t answer why it’s only the fifth year to celebrate our heroes in blue. We wish this would become a holiday just like celebrating the birth of our nation on July 4, which was declared way back in 1776. Veterans Day began as Armistice Day back in 1919 and officially became a federal holiday on November 11, 1938. Memorial Day? That wasn’t even started until 1971.

So with all that said, we will just say “Better late than never.”

Officer Down: Sheriff says cop killed in motorcycle crash after being forced off roadway

The last two answers can be answered at the same time. What happens on this day and how can you get involved?

In the first few years, some people did small (yet huge when you look at the big picture) things like baking cookies and delivering them to their local law enforcement agencies.

Front porch lights were changed to blue bulbs so officers driving by would see the support shining bright.

School children took the time to make cards to remind the protectors of their community that they are loved, with some placing them in the ranks of Batman and Superman.

Officer Down: Sheriff says cop killed in motorcycle crash after being forced off roadway

C.O.P.S. has 55 chapters spread out across the nation. These chapters are run completely on a volunteer basis by survivors.

Many of them work tirelessly to organize rallies or large meals to bring together officers in their areas. Several states prepare declarations to officially mark January 9th of each year as Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.

Even President Donald Trump sends his support our via Twitter on this day.

Last year, C.O.P.S. decided to partner with the American Red Cross and community blood collection agencies to organize “Blue Blood Drives”, which are held on or around January 9.

Community members are asked to give blood in honor of law enforcement.

These have taken off with over 100 drives scheduled in 2020. You can find one near you by visiting concernsofpolicesurvivors.org, and while you’re there, check out all the amazing things they are doing for survivors and the law enforcement community.

Officer Down: Sheriff says cop killed in motorcycle crash after being forced off roadway

Now if your schedule doesn’t allow any of the above ways to show support, social media is a great and easy way to spread the love for police. You can change your profile picture to the LEAD logo, share positive news stories about officers, or send a shout out to your area agencies and use the hashtags

#LEAD2020 and #LawEnforcementAppreciationDay.

Most importantly, if you are out and about and come across an officer, take a few seconds to simply say “Thank you.” Those two words mean more than you know to them.

Officer Down: Sheriff says cop killed in motorcycle crash after being forced off roadway

To all officers out there serving to protect, we see you. We support you. We thank you. Stay safe and happy Law Enforcement Appreciation Day to you all.


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