ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Clay County Deputy Ben Zirbel was on duty when he was hit by a vehicle at an intersection on Blanding Boulevard last summer and died from his injuries. He was a motorcycle deputy and part of a tight-knit community of law enforcement officers.
Zirbel will be honored for his service when his name is added to the national police memorial wall in Washington, D.C., in May. His fellow deputies, including his former partner, Jimmy Stalnaker, are working to raise money so everyone from the motor unit can attend the ceremony.
"We worked everyday together on motor unit. The red squad," Stalner said. " A lot of times, we ride doubles, work together, eat lunch together. (We) train together each month. So, the motor unit is very tight, very tight."
Others feel the same connection to Zirbel and want to be there to honor his sacrifice.
"It is a big deal. As a traffic unit, as a family, we’re going to go there in May and be there with Anna Zirbel and her family. Ben’s name will be placed on the memorial wall for the fallen officer. To be there is a big deal. It is very expensive and that’s why we’re doing these fundraisers," Deputy Claude Hurley said.
Since the deadly crash, Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels has made it a priority to push for stronger regulations on distracted driving, something his agency supports.
While deputies patrol the streets, they are also focusing on fundraising.
"Shootin with the Sheriffs"
The first fundraising event was held Monday when deputies hosted a "Shootin with the Sheriffs" event from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Saltwater Shooting Club in St. Augustine. Several deputies and community members showed up to show their support. A raffle was also set up to raise money.
"Memorial Ride for the Fallen"
A second event is set for March 23, when there will be a "Memorial Ride for the Fallen" at Adamec Harley-Davidson of Orange Park. The cost is $25 for riders and $10 for passengers.
The hope is to get these men and women, who feel as though they lost a brother, to be able to honor his memory at the Washington D.C. ceremony.