Tampa remembers fallen officers during annual memorial

- On the heels of the death of a Highlands County deputy, the Tampa Police Department held its annual Tampa Police Memorial Ceremony for fallen officers Tuesday.

The event honors the 31 Tampa police officers who have died in the line of duty since 1895.

For many of the families in attendance, decades have passed since they lost a loved one, but the emotions are still raw.

"It's been 36 years but I cried again today and it never goes away, of course, the pain," said Patricia Rauft, whose father, Detective Gerald Rauft was killed in 1981.

Ann Williams, meanwhile, remembers holding her husband, Officer Anthony Williams as he died in 1975.

"We were on our way home and stopped at a 7-Eleven and there was a robbery inside," Ann Williams said, adding they were high school sweethearts. "I feel actually grateful that I could have been with my husband when he died."

At the forefront of the minds of Williams, Rauft, and others in attendance was Highlands County Deputy William Gentry, who was shot Sunday during a routine call in Lake Placid. He died Monday afternoon.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn brought up Gentry during his speech.

"It is a dangerous job. That wall is testimony to how dangerous it is," Buckhorn said, referring to the memorial wall outside Tampa Police headquarters dedicated officers killed in the line of duty. "We were reminded just [two] days ago in Highlands County on a routine call, a call that many of your answer multiple times in a night, how dangerous this is and all you want to do is come home to your families."

Gentry was the third member of a Florida law enforcement agency killed since the beginning of April; two Gilchrist County deputies were shot and killed last month while they were eating at a restaurant.

Williams offered a message to those dealing with these types of sudden losses:

"It's going to be a long road and all you can do is go from day to day and I hope that all the people that care about them and love them stay close," she said. "Don't stop talking about them because they're gone. You need to talk about them more because they're gone."

Williams and Rauft agreed, events like Tuesday's ceremony at TPD headquarters help ease the pain.

"It gives us a way to vent a little bit and to be together with other people who are like us and actually understand what we're really going through," Williams said.

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