Ride for the Badge gathers in Ascension
THE ISSUE: Rising crime in the Capitol Region has left a high number of police officers wounded or killed in 2016.
LOCAL IMPACT: Ascension Parish police officers and friends and family of wounded officers showed support with a local motorcycle ride and fundraiser for those clinging to their lives.
Hundreds of first responders traversed Ascension and Livingston Parishes this weekend in honor of fallen officers and particularly wounded EBRSO Deputy Nick Tullier and BRPD Officer Rickey Faust.
The Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office and other businesses sponsored the event on Saturday, July 15 called Ride for the Badge. It was a "poker run" that began at the Tilted Kilt in Gonzales next to Cabelas. It featured music, food, refreshments and bikes.
Participants wore their appropriate leather vests representing the Blue Knights, the Wild Pigs or other club uniform. Over one thousand bikes were expected for the ride.
A longtime friend of the Tullier's, Sheri Kirley, passed out black bracelets lined with blue that read "Pray for Nick." Tullier, the 42-year-old deputy from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office was attacked one year ago on July 17, 2016.
"Since we're coming up on the one-year anniversary, it's very exciting that people are so engaged in supporting not only Nick, but all the other fallen officers, their families and law enforcement in general," Kirley said.
The event was imagined by "Wild Bill" Utley, a retired fireman from Mobile, Ala. It was obviously not only to benefit Tullier, but the other officers and deputies that were injured in the shooting incident last year in Baton Rouge. Utley has been working on the ride event since September. Utley has never met Tullier but wanted to do something for him.
"I prayed about this, and everything was a go," Utley said.
Utley's first step was reaching out to BRPD Officer Lt. John Colter. Colter is a card carrying member of the "Blue Knights" riding club. When Utley reached out, Colter said call me if you need anything.
"I reached out to him six months later, and this thing took off," Utley said.
Colter reminded that the event was to benefit the family of BRPD Deputy Rickey Faust, as well.
"Rickey Faust was hurt in a unit wreck shortly after the shooting," Colter said. "This is to help the families out with the travel expenses of commuting back and forth to Houston and making ends meet. Workman's comp doesn't pay one hundred percent of your paycheck."
Colter explained the poker game and how it works. Each participant paid $20 for entry, or just $10 for a ride-along.
"With Nick, it seems like we are witnessing a miracle," APSO Chief Deputy Bobby Webre said. "Right now we're in that year anniversary of the shooting in Baton Rouge where he was so gravely injured, then to hear him say his first words, to watch him move, to watch him do physical therapy is just unbelievable."