WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump was among those who spoke at a gathering of thousands Monday at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial to honor a Nassau County deputy and 233 other officers who died in the line of duty in 2016.
Deputy Eric Oliver, 32, was assisting a Border Patrol agent who was detaining illegal workers at a gas station last November when one of them ran away. Oliver and another deputy gave chase. Oliver, a Navy veteran and father, was struck by an SUV and killed.
"Though your loved ones left us much too soon, the memory of their courage will live on forever," Trump said. "To see so many names together is to gain only a small glimpse of the debt America owes to those who protect our cities and police our streets."
Oliver's parents and brothers were in Washington, D.C., for the service. Their trip was paid for by the nonprofit Concerns of Police Survivors.
The deputy's mother, Sharon, joined others at the service who were mourning their sons and daughters at the service.
"We had a lot of mothers get together today," she said. "I found out that’s a common theme. We found out a lot about what their sons did, how they helped people, after they passed away. They have a dangerous job."
Nassau County's Sheriff Bill Leeper and several of his deputies made the trip to Washington to honor Oliver's sacrifice and hear the president memorialize the fallen officers.
"Every drop of blood that’s spilled from our heroes in blue is a wound inflicted on the whole country," Trump said. "To see so many names together is to gain a small glimpse of the debt the American people owe to the people who police our streets."
"Officers from the entire country come together to recognize those who lost their lives. (A) humbling experience. I’m honored to be a part of it," Leeper said. "(It) certainly hit the department hard. Everybody is family there. We’re getting better, back to what we need to do every day: protect our community and remember Eric."
Oliver's family and members of the Nassau County Sheriff's Office took home rubbings of Oliver's name from the memorial wall. They also left a jar of Fernandina Beach sand with a picture of Oliver and his 6-year-old daughter at the wall.
"It shows a lot of respect for what he did," said Oliver's father, Doug. "He did what he wanted to do, died doing what he wanted to do."
Members of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office were also in Washington for memorial week and were among the tens of thousands to pay their respects to fallen officers at the capitol.
Oliver's parents said their lives are slowly getting back to a routine.
"(We) have our ups and downs," Sharon Oliver said. "(The) community’s been very overwhelming supporting us, both Duval and Nassau County."
Oliver served two tours in Iraq and was with the Sheriff’s Office for seven years.
A plaque honoring Oliver was placed last week at the law enforcement memorial wall in Nassau County. It lists his name and his End of Watch: Nov. 22, 2016.
The man Oliver was chasing, Francisco Portillo-Fuentes, was arrested that night at Atlantic Self Storage on Powers Avenue after a manhunt involving the U.S. Marshals Service, the Nassau County Sheriff's Office, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the Florida Highway Patrol. He was sentenced to two years in prison, followed by deportation to El Salvador.
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