AUGUSTA — Shortly after law enforcement officers from around the state gathered on State Street Thursday to remember those killed in the line of duty, Augusta police made their way to Mount Hope Cemetery to pay special honor to the two city officers killed on the job.

Rufus Lishness was shot in the head on Nov. 11, 1884, while responding to a disturbance at Fort Western, which were tenement apartments at the time. Selden Jones was killed May 17, 1930, when he was thrown from his motorcycle when it hit a pothole on Bangor Street.

The two are buried a short distance from each other at the cemetery between Winthrop Street and the airport.

It was the second year in a row the city police department, in a brief ceremony that included its honor guard, laid wreaths on the officers’ graves and remembered their sacrifice.

“And he laid down his life in the line of duty,” Augusta Police Sgt. Christian Behr said, reading the reflections of Jones’ death by then-Mayor Robert Cony. “Augusta, in my judgment, has lost one of its most faithful servants, and the community a young man of character and promise.”

Jones, who was 25 when he was killed, left a wife and a 19-month-old son, as well as his mother, six brothers and five sisters.

Lishness, who was 45 when he was shot, left a wife and six children.

Lishness’ final words were, “I did my duty, didn’t I?” according to a report in the Kennebec Journal.

Thursday’s ceremonies, which coincided with others like it held around the country as part of National Peace Officers Memorial Day, honored 83 Maine officers, like Lishness and Jones, killed while on the job for a Maine law enforcement agency. There were no names added this year to the memorial, which is just off State Street near the Union Street intersection.

The most recent death was Game Warden pilot Daryl Gordon, who died in a plane crash in 2011. Gordon was the 15th game warden added to the wall, which is more than any other agency. The names of 10 troopers from the Maine State Police also appear on the wall.

Regardless of what agency they represented, Mount Desert Police Chief James Willis, president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, said there is an uncommon bond between law enforcement officers and their families.

Willis led the crowd in a moment of silence for New York City Police Detective Brian Moore and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, officers Benjamin Deen and Liquori Tate, all three of whom were shot and killed on the job this month. Willis said the loss of one is felt by other officers.

“We mourn their loss with you while we remember their sacrifice was not in vain,” Willis said to the few dozen family and friends who gathered for the ceremony.

Gov. Paul LePage, who delivered the keynote address, said the life of a law enforcement officer is similar to that of a member of the military.

“They’re our domestic soldiers,” LePage said. “When you join you’re signing a blank check.”

LePage said the ceremony was timely in light of recent news reports from around the country accusing police of excessive force that has resulted in the deaths of suspects in the process of being arrested or already in custody.

“There are certainly mistakes that have been made, but it’s more important to remember that you are out there protecting us,” LePage said. “We need you and we need you to be safe.”

Not everyone shares that goal, however.

“There are, literally, people out there who would like to add to the wall,” LePage said. “We can’t allow that. A civil society cannot allow that.”

LePage said much of the crime in Maine is driven by those who use and traffic in illegal drugs. Referencing legislators working in the nearby state Capitol, LePage called on lawmakers to fund more drug enforcement agents, prosecutors and judges to crack down on those involved in the drug trade and make them “guests of Maine for the rest of their lives.”

LePage said the state must do a better job of providing the people and resources law enforcement officers need to protect the public.

“You do everything you can, but some days I wake up thinking, ‘There are a lot more of them than there are you,'” LePage said.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4


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