JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Participants gathered Saturday morning in Jacksonville Beach to honor the life of Cpl. Andy Lavender with a 5K charity race to raise awareness about suicide prevention among law enforcement and first responders.
Lavender, who served in the Navy, worked in law enforcement for nearly 30 years, including significant time with the Jacksonville Beach Police Department
Lavender died by suicide Aug. 3, 2019. He was 54 years old.
Keith Dorough, founder of Blue Lives Matter Florida, started the organization after Lavender’s death. They worked together in the Jacksonville Beach Department for 10 years, including time with the SWAT team
“He was bigger than life. He was great to be around and it was never a dull moment. You never knew what was coming and what angle it was coming from,” Dorough said. “It was always the unexpected. We don’t know how many lives or if any we have saved. But I would like to think that we saved at least one life out there and it makes it all worthwhile.”
The 5K Saturday to honor his life raised funds to go toward resources to prevent suicide among law enforcement and first responders.
Those resources include:
- Educational courses for other departments, primarily smaller ones that may not have the resources to educate departments on what to look for
- K-9s for after crisis events
Rebecca Harris, who volunteers with the Jacksonville Beach Police Department, said education is one of the most important resources, because “if you’re not educated on a topic and you don’t understand it, you don’t know how to prevent it. Education is extremely important.”
“Letting them know that it is OK to not be OK. Just giving them that support is so important,” Harris said. “I know that last year we honored three separate officers, Andy and two other officers. One from Daytona Beach Shores and one from JSO. That was three too many.”