Law officers honored at annual event

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Local officials from across Northwest Florida honored fallen heroes and those currently serving at a luncheon Tuesday.

Annie Blanks @DestinLogAnnie

NICEVILLE — Law enforcement officers from across Northwest Florida gathered at the Niceville Community Center on Tuesday for the 15th annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Luncheon. 

Local officials honored fallen heroes from across the state and in Okaloosa county, heard from famed Arkansas Razorbacks radio announcer Chuck Barrett and recognized the 2016 Okaloosa Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. 

“You can tell the values of a country, you can tell the values of a community in their laws,” Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley told the crowd. “You can see those values in their laws. And that’s what we’re required to do.” 

Michelle Lopez, whose late husband Sheriff’s Deputy Burt Lopez, was killed in the line of duty in 2009, attended the event. She said she and her family attend every year. 

“It’s always an honor to remember our family members, but also the police officers that are currently serving,” Lopez said. “I’m very grateful for our children to realize that they’re always remembered, and I think that’s a very important message.” 

Five current law officers who serve with the Sheriff’s Office, Fort Walton Beach Police Department and Eglin Air Force Base’s 96th Security Forces Squadron were nominated for the 2016 Okaloosa Law Enforcement Officer of the year award. Each officer was recognized for their service. 

Fort Walton Beach Police Officer Kendra Stalls won the award. Stalls was credited with diffusing a dangerous situation involving a man running into traffic on Eglin Parkway as well as with giving a child a new football after seeing him playing with a deflated onel around Christmastime. 

State Rep. Mel Ponder said it was an honor to attend the event. 

“To come to something like this and get to break bread with those who protect and serve our city, it further honors those people,” he said. “A day like today is really just to come and be a fan of those who protect and serve  every day of their lives and honor those who have fallen in the line of duty.” 

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