Darden family part of officers’ memorial

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The City of Norfolk Police Department provided transportation and lodging for some of the immediate family members of Police Officer Seneca Darden, who was killed in the line of duty on May 22, 2006, in Norfolk.

Seneca was 25 and a 1998 graduate of Southampton High School.

The event was the 26th Annual National Peace Officers Week and Memorial Services in Washington, D.C., held May 13-15.

A National Police Survivors Conference was held May 14-16 at the Hilton in Alexandria. This event was sponsored by Concerns of Police Survivors Inc. (COPS). COPS has been in existence since 1984. It was founded for the purpose of providing resources to assist in the rebuilding of lives of surviving family members of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty as determined by federal criteria.

COPS is a non-profit tax-exempt organization. COPS President Jean Hill stated that it is the only organization in the nation that reaches out and touches survivors; and it does that for years after the funeral.

The annual Candlelight Vigil was held at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Judiciary Square, Washington, D.C. The ceremony began at 8 p.m. and concluded at 9 p.m., but it took an additional two hours to read the newly engraved names added to the memorial.

There were 10 officers killed in Virginia in 2006. This was the second highest in the nation. California led the nation with 12. This was a very profound experience.

My family was greatly touched to see so many more survivors who shared common grief. We all are in the same boat. It does not matter what color you are. We all try to say encouraging words of comfort to each other.

We met so many more families who are still trying to cope with tragedy. But it gave us hope knowing that there is an organization that understands our pain and our loss. We feel that they will do their best to help rebuild our shattered lives through love, healing and life renewed.

The climax of the week was the 26th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service held on the west front lawn of the U.S. Capitol. This event was sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police and its auxiliary. The keynote speaker was President. The president gave an encouraging and inspiring speech to the survivors.

He also took the time to personally shake each hand and chit chat for a few minutes. He said I had a beautiful daughter and should be very proud of her. He then kissed Brindle on the cheek. He told Roxanne that she raised a special son and Seneca’s contribution to this country will never be forgotten. Seneca’s mother, Roxanne Darden, lives in Courtland.

We concluded the day with the reading of the theme poem: &uot;Never Let Them Walk Alone&uot; — And when their time has to pass and when the Father calls them home, there’s a bigger job that must be done. Never let them walk alone.

Seneca’s father is also a Courtland resident.

Seneca Darden was on duty but in plain clothes at the time of his shooting. According to reports, he was holding a gun on suspects during a drug arrest when another officer came on the scene. The second officer did not recognize Seneca and allegedly told him to drop his gun. The second officer fired shots that killed Seneca, according to police reports.

According to Seneca’s mother, Seneca also had two first cousins who were raised

with Seneca like a brother and sister — Cordalious Bryant, 18, and Shavon Bryant, 26.

&uot;Biologically he was my only son,&uot; she said, &uot;but he was very close to them, especially Shavon. She would always give him advice.&uot;

In addition to the cousins who were raised in the same house, Seneca had four half brothers and sisters.

Retired Southampton High Principal Bill Wright remembers Seneca well.

&uot;He was an excellent student,&uot; he told The Tidewater News shortly after Seneca’s death. &uot;He was one of those who was always able to make the right choices, and the other students recognized that. You always like to be around good people, and he was that kind of person.&uot;

LEO HARDY JR. is Seneca Darden’s father-in-law. He lives in Capron.