When her husband left for work that day, just like every time he left for work, Tabitha Hayden prayed he would return home safely.
Brian Hayden, a Choctaw County sheriff's deputy, was en route to assist another officer on a “shots fired” call when the crash happened. He died in the arms of a fellow deputy.
His death is a stark reminder that Oklahoma law officers put their lives on the line every time they go to work.
“When everybody else goes to bed, our husbands and wives go out,” Tabitha Hayden said. “They're fighting the bad guys that we don't see every day. They're fighting the criminals, the people who have the guns, the drug dealers. They fight that every day. We don't know as wives or husbands when they're coming home.”
Brian Hayden is one of eight Oklahoma law enforcement officers whose name will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington.
Hayden, 47, of Sawyer, died in a crash April 19, 2012, on State Highway 70 about three miles west of Soper. Hayden and a tribal officer both were westbound on SH 70 when the tribal officer's car hit the driver's side door of Hayden's pickup.
Men and women killed in the line of duty will be honored next month at memorial ceremonies in Oklahoma and Washington, said Dennis Lippe, a retired Oklahoma City police sergeant who serves as chairman of the nonprofit Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial Inc.
The memorials are in place to remind the public of the sacrifice, Lippe said.
“They're not forgotten,” he said. “They sacrificed. They were willing to take the chance.”
The local memorial service will be at 10 a.m. May 10 at the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial, located on the west side of the Department of Public Safety Headquarters, NE 36 and Martin Luther King Avenue in Oklahoma City, Lippe said.
The names of five men and women who have died will be added to the state memorial. Gov. Mary Fallin is scheduled to speak at the ceremony, Lippe said.
Those being added to the state memorial are:
• Jeffery McCoy, 32, of Norman, a parole and probation officer with the state Corrections Department, was shot to death at a Midwest City residence when he arrived for a meeting with a man May 18.
• William C. Coen, 57, was on duty with the Harper County sheriff's office June 10 when he responded to a call for backup from the Laverne Police Department. Coen, who was a full-time police officer in Laverne, was driving on State Highway 64 about two miles west of Buffalo when his police cruiser veered off the road at a curve, flipped and caught fire. He died at the scene.
• Mayra Ramirez-Barreto, 54, an agent with the Puerto Rico Department of Justice, and Eliezer Colon-Claussells, 35, a corrections officer with the Puerto Rico Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, died Jan. 10 in a crash on U.S. 177. The prison officials were visiting a correctional facility in Cushing.
• Wiley Florence, the Purcell police chief, died in a shooting in 1932.
Separate ceremonies in Washington — a candlelight vigil May 13 and a memorial service May 15 — also will honor Oklahoma law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty, Lippe said. Hayden, McCoy and Coen's names will be added to the national memorial, as well as the names of five law enforcement officers who died between 1894 and 1950.
The memorial activities are planned during National Police Week. May 15 is Peace Officers Memorial Day, and the week in which that date falls is recognized as Police Week.
Hayden said she will attend the May 15 memorial service, an event that draws tens of thousands of attendees to the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol, according to organizers.
The events are heart-wrenching, and yet, provide comfort, Tabitha Hayden said.
“It's hard to explain,” she said. “I'm grateful that they honor my husband and the other officers who have died. And, at the same time, I'm realizing, he's not here. It's an overwhelming feeling to have people who are still there for you and still care for you, after the fact. It's like another big family besides your own family.”