Riding to remember

sm copy

For 13 grueling days, Indiana law officers ride the perimeter of the state, just under 1,000 miles, to remember fallen comrades

Jul 27, 2015

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Lt. Gary Dudley of the Indiana State Police started a bike ride back in 2004, and it became a tradition that continues today.

For 13 grueling days, Indiana law enforcement officers ride the perimeter of the state, just under 1,000 miles. Along the way, they visit families of officers lost in the line of duty. At each stop, they read remembrances of fallen officers: Their names and ranks, when and how they died. Some died within the past year, while others died over a century ago. On the side of the box truck that accompanies the bicyclists, new faces appear each year as officers who have died in the past year are honored by having their photos placed there. Markers are available for people to write a memory on the side of the truck at each stop.

Riders Rich Crawford, of the Indiana State Police; Steve Knight, Indianapolis Police Department; and Capt. Monica Zahasky, Bloomington Police Department, were all there at the beginning before the ride started. In 2002, Dudley told Knight he was riding to Washington, D.C., for the Police Unity Tour. A year later he told him he was riding to Washington, D.C. with Crawford and Zahasky. Knight decided to tag along.

Zahasky said the first time she rode with Dudley to Washington she remembers thinking, as a former high school athlete, it would be easy. But there are some pretty big hills between here and Washington D.C., Dudley pushed Zahasky up many of those.

“He would say the pain you are feeling right now is nothing compared to the pain those survivors feel on a daily basis,” Zahasky said.

The ride was an adventure, a nine-day ride with six of those days in the rain. Coming back, Knight said Dudley told them he would like to organize an Indiana ride, build a foundation that would assist fallen officers’ families and recognize those fallen officers so they would never be forgotten. And so he put together the Indiana ride.

Dudley was an instructor in Plainfield for the Indiana State Police. Because of his position, he had connections with officers all over the state. When it came time to put together the ride, he was able to tap into those connections to help make the ride happen.

“He trained a good portion of the state police,” Knight said.

In the early years, they struggled to find a support truck and places to stay and to eat that would donate food and accommodations so they could keep the money that came in to go to the charity with the Indiana COPS organization.

Two years into the organized Indiana ride, in 2006, the group was cycling south on Indiana 63 two miles south of Interstate 74 near Perrysville around 12:30 p.m. The driver of a freight truck rear-ended the riders’ support van, pushing the van into the riders. The van had a large banner warning of the cyclists and was using flashing amber lights at the time of the collision. Lt. Dudley and Deputy Chief Gary L. Martin of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department died at the scene from their injuries. One of the other cyclists and the drivers of both vehicles were injured.

Every year the riders go past the scene of the accident. Crawford said that is the hardest day of the ride. The closer they get, the more the vivid the memories of what happened grow. Nine years later, Crawford said it is as fresh in his mind as it was then.

After the accident they all paused, wondering if what they were doing was safe if they should continue. But to end the ride seemed like a disservice to Dudley’s memory.

“We kept going to honor his memory, ” Zahasky said.

The accident brought attention to the group, the Cook Foundation gave the Indiana COPS organization a $1 million donation and another company donated a box truck. Where once they would have only had six riders on a few days of the ride they now had many. The response from law enforcement was overwhelming Crawford said. They had more offers to escort the ride than they knew what to do with.

A couple of years ago they broke from the Indiana COPS organization and became their own nonprofit organization. Crawford said it was a natural progression and they continue to have a good relationship with Indiana COPS.

“I don’t think any of us would be here right now if it hadn’t have been for Gary Dudley,” Crawford said.

The red helmets on the riders, on their ride jerseys and on the t-shirts all represent Dudley. Illinois Cops Cycling for Survivors also has the red helmet on their jerseys. The Indiana ride now includes friends of law enforcement and survivors.

Law enforcement officers are given priority if the number of riders for a day is full.

“The back of our jerseys has our mission statement: ‘riding to remember.’ We ride to remember fallen officers and support their families,” Knight said.

On the side of the box truck is the Cops Cycling for Survivors logo: a man pedaling, wearing the red helmet to symbolize Gary Dudley. Written over the logo with a marker is a message from Crawford to Dudley: “Rest in peace Gary Dudley, we’ll take it from here.”

And so they have.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s