JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 62 officers who have died in the line of duty in Jacksonville since 1940 and were honored Wednesday morning during Police Memorial Day observances.
Sheriff Mike Williams spoke directly to the families of the fallen heroes in attendance as the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the Fraternal Order of Police held its annual ceremony at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena.
“We, your JSO family, is here for you. You are loved and we are thankful for your family’s sacrifice," Williams said.
During the service, Officer Lance Whitaker's name was added to the Fallen Officers Memorial Wall by Williams and Whitaker's 15-year-old son, Cade.
Whitaker, a 17-year veteran, died in a crash last May responding to an accident on Interstate 295 at Alta Drive.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Tuesday to rename the portion of the I-295 east beltway where the accident happened Officer Lance Christian Whitaker Highway.
Officer Lance Whitaker’s family along side Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Zona in front of the fallen officers memorial wall where officer Whitaker’s name was unveiled during the ceremony. @wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/L6R4v7GDzb— Brittany Muller (@WJXTBrittanyM) April 24, 2019
Whitaker McKinney said was an emotional day for the family but they are thankful to have this support.
"I think that it feels like a unique brotherhood of families given that we’ve all shared a loss so I think that gives us a bond that no one else will ever have," said the officer's ex-wife, Lisa Whitaker McKinney.
Whitaker McKinney said the two had been married for nearly seven years and said she knows Whitaker's legacy will live through her son.
Whitaker McKinney told News4Jax that she misses her partner who was the backbone of co-parenting.
"I hope my son will become a police officer. I was very proud of him and I know Lance would be especially proud of him and I could see him watching over Cade," Whitaker McKinney said.
The department's Honor Guard read a final roll call, there was a flyover by the Aviation Unit and a 21-gun salute. The service ended with the families commemorating their loved ones and visiting the Memorial Wall with Williams and Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Zona.