Ceremony honors law enforcement's best

Lisa Yates @Lisa_editor
Ascension Parish Sheriff's Department Lt. Chris Moody; Gonzales Police Department Officer Walter Taylor; and, Louisiana State Trooper Samuel “Sam” Latimer, of Troop A, receive honors at the St. Theresa Avila Knights of Columbus 37th Annual law Enforcement Banquet.

Men and women serving in law enforcement put their lives on the line every day to keep the community safe.

St. Theresa of Avila Knights of Columbus Council 2657, along with St. Amant Council 6389, St. Mark Council 8147, St. John Council 8342, and Nuestra Senora de Guadelupe Council 13145, honored three of those men, Sept. 26, at the 37th Annual Law Enforcement Banquet.

Craig Braud, Grand Knight of Council 2657, officiated at the ceremony which included introductions from Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux and Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez.

Assistant District Attorney Jason Verdigets emceed, welcoming approximately 150 guests and introducing the special guest speaker.

District Attorney Ricky L. Babin served as the guest speaker at the event. He spoke of the awesome responsibility of law enforcement to exercise its power with fairness, no malice and with integrity.

"Thank you for your sacrifice," he told the officers. "It's appreciated and not forgotten."

The awards were given to Louisiana State Trooper Samuel "Sam" Latimer of Troop A; Ascension Parish Sheriff's Department Lt. Chris Moody, and Gonzales Police Department Officer Walter Taylor.

Also, a special award was presented to Claude Babineaux in appreciation for his work organizing the KC's awards banquet for the past 36 years.

Each of the recipients was introduced by a representative of his department who gave specific examples of his dedication to serving and protecting the community.

Latimer was recognized for expertise in using CAD software and for "meticulous observation in evidence collection" as an accident reconstructionist.

He was also praised for his work as a field training officer and road trooper by Louisiana State Trooper Sgt. Gerald Varnado, of Troop A, who read a nomination from Capt. Frank Ducote.

All of the officers were commended for their professionalism, integrity and exemplary character.

Some were recognized for specific situations where those traits were given the opportunity to shine.

Moody was honored as Deputy of the Year by the sheriff's department for his role in the successful capture of five murder suspects who broke into a home on Feb. 18, to rob and kill three members of the Marchand family: Irwin, Shirley and Doug.

Sheriff Jeff Wiley said "Solve this case" were the only orders he issued that night. He said against overwhelming odds, the young Lieutenant and his team went to work to solve this heinous crime.

"Piece by piece, the case came together," he said. "With strong leadership offered by Chris and the team, the bitterness turned to commitment, the anger to willpower and the sorrow into true grit. Within 19 days of the crime, the Sheriff's Office logged over 3,450 man hours, interviewed 149 individuals, collected 193 pieces of evidence, investigated 64 tips, collected 833 hours of video, analyzed 14 cell phones and computers, and arrested five murdering thieves who came in the night."

Taylor was honored as Officer of the Year by the Gonzales City Police Department for his work in law enforcement, which began at an early age.

"Taylor was member of the Junior Police program and then completed the Gonzales Police Explore program before graduating Ascension High School," said Gonzales Police Chief Sherman Jackson. "After high school, he served three successful years in the U.S. Marine Corp. before joining the Gonzales Police Department in August of 2007, as a patrol officer."

He said Officer Taylor is a field training officer, and honor guard commander, a SWAT member, a standardized field sobriety instructor, a law enforcement prevention/deterrence of terrorist act instructor, a reality-based training instructor, a PPCT defense tactics instructor and a chemical weapons instructor.

The police chief said Taylor is also responsible for implementing a program called "In Service Training."

"Officer Taylor took the initiative after observing several different programs that would fit with our department," he said. "Officer Taylor finished the training model and presented the program to our staff members. The program is still used today. Because of Officer Taylor's work, dedication, commitment and loyalty, the Gonzales Police Department and the citizens of Gonzales are stronger and safer."

Louisiana State Trooper Russell Graham said this was his first year to organize the event. He stepped in for longtime event organizer Claude Babineaux who decided to retire.

"People here look forward to the banquet every year," he said. "It's a nice tradition which shows appreciation for the men and women in uniform who serve our parish."

He said Boy Scout Troop 65 served the chicken and rice dinner which was prepared by Mike Daigle and Leon Darbonne.

Ascension President Tommy Martinez said he looks forward to the banquet every year to honor those who serve.

"We have the best law enforcement team in Louisiana and probably the whole United States," he said. "I saw on TV last night that Baton Rouge had its 75th murder of the year. I give thanks for what we have here – that we can walk the streets and still feel safe."