Tuesday, May 07, 2013 12:12 AM
Cyclists honor slain trooper
62-mile ride stretches from Raleigh to DeMuth's duty station in Rocky Mount
By Corey Friedman | Times Online Editor
NASHVILLE — Many had never met Bobby Gene DeMuth. But they pedaled 62 miles through wind and rain to honor his memory.
More than two-dozen state troopers rode bicycles from Raleigh to Rocky Mount on Monday, pausing at the Nash County Courthouse to remember DeMuth, a trooper and former Wilson County sheriff’s deputy, and to honor all officers killed in the line of duty.
"I’m a trooper. Bobby Gene DeMuth was a trooper,” said cyclist Greg Steffens. "This is how we show respect. We don’t golf. We don’t play softball. We ride bikes.”
DeMuth died Sept. 8 when a robbery suspect hit him during a high-speed chase on U.S. 64 outside Spring Hope. DeMuth was placing stop sticks in the road to deflate the suspect’s tires when authorities say 40-year-old Christopher McCoy Rodgers of Williamston swerved to hit the trooper.
Cyclists rode from the Highway Patrol Training Academy in Raleigh through Garner, Wendell, Zebulon and Spring Hope before stopping in Nashville for a fallen officers’ memorial service and continuing to the N.C. Fraternal Order of Police lodge in Rocky Mount.
"I’m very proud,” said DeMuth’s wife, Michelle DeMuth. "It’s almost overwhelming sometimes how much he is remembered.”
She focused on the meaningful things her husband accomplished as a member of the N.C. Highway Patrol rather than the potential for danger that comes with the job.
"You always worry, but you have to look at it just like any other job,” she said. "He puts on a uniform and I dress up to go to work.”
DeMuth’s sister, Kathy Marshall, said her brother was "the stubborn one,” but he retained a soft heart even when he was hardheaded.
"He’s always been my hero,” said DeMuth’s mother, Mildred Karachun. "He was my first, and he always accomplished what he set out to do.”
DeMuth worked at the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office from 1996-98. He was a 12-year veteran of the Highway Patrol and was assigned to the Nash County district office in Rocky Mount.
Cyclists gulped bottled water and snacked on bananas and trail mix before gathering outside the courthouse in downtown Nashville for a brief service to honor local law enforcement officers who lost their lives.
The Blue Knights law enforcement motorcycle club and Rocky Mount-based FOP Lodge No. 46 organized the service, which honored 13 law enforcement officers from Nash and Edgecombe counties, including Willard Wayne Hathaway and David Young of the Sharpsburg Police Department.
"This ceremony is to honor those who gave all,” said Greg Brown, a retired Rocky Mount police officer. "Those who gave their lives in the line of duty are heroes. They are heroes not only because of how they died, but because of how they lived.”
The Rev. Howard Kendrick said police, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers have the burden of protecting both the innocent and the guilty. He gave the example of an officer shooting a gunman who threatens his or her life, then rushing to revive him.
"That same officer will try to perform CPR on that perpetrator to try to save his or her life,” Kendrick said.
Speakers also acknowledged the sacrifices that officers’ spouses, children and parents are called upon to make.
"We just want to tell you we’re here for you, families of each of these officers,” Kendrick said. "Thank you for the sacrifice you made for their service to mankind.”
The memorial ride ended with a late lunch at the FOP lodge, but a handful of riders planned to continue east to Edenton and north to Washington, D.C., for National Police Week.
Steffens, who is biking to the nation’s capital, said Monday’s 62-mile ride wasn’t too grueling for experienced cyclists.
"I’ve done 200 miles in one day,” he said. "That’s a hootenanny.”
Cyclists still got their share of exercise as they battled gusty winds and intermittent rain for much of the hours-long memorial ride.
"It’s really windy,” Steffens said, "and the wind’s going the wrong direction, as always.”
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