News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

July 19, 2011

VIDEO: The Wabash Valley mourns fallen officer Brent Long

TERRE HAUTE — During an emotional funeral ceremony, fallen Terre Haute police officer Brent Long was remembered Monday as a role model, hero and inspiration who had a passion for public service.

“Brent died doing what he loved, and for that this community and this department will forever be indebted to him,” said Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse.

An estimated 2,200 to 2,500 people gathered at Hulman Center on Monday to pay their final respects to Long, who made the ultimate sacrifice July 11 while serving an arrest warrant at a home on North Eighth Street.

Those honoring Long included about 1,300 police and 150 K-9 teams.

Long was a six-year veteran of the police department who had served as a K-9 officer and member of the SWAT team. Prior to becoming a police officer, he had been a firefighter with the Honey Creek Fire Department for about 10 years. He also worked for the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department as  dispatcher, jailer and assistant jail commander.

“We are gathered here today to remember a true hero,” said Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett. In everything Long undertook, “he stepped up in every capacity.”

Bennett said he couldn’t remember seeing such an outpouring of community support as has happened this past week, with people rallying to support Long’s family and the police department. “I think it’s a testament to him that he truly represented this community in a special way,” Bennett said. “Job well done, Officer Brent D. Long.”

Other speakers described Long’s dedication to the job, his sense of humor, his mischievous smile and his devotion to family.

“When you met him for the first time, you knew he was a genuine individual and he was your friend for life,” said Sheriff Greg Ewing, who first met Long when Long was a South Vigo freshman and Ewing was a security officer there.

He talked about their friendship and how their professional paths crossed through the years. “I was so proud to be part of his life. I’m so happy his dream of being a police office finally came true,” Ewing said.

As he tearfully walked off the stage, he said, “Rest in peace, my friend.”

Plasse noted that while Long was on the department for just six years, “He made quite an impact in that short time.”

Just recently, in a short period of time, Long and his K-9 partner Shadow were involved in a significant drug seizure; Long assisted in locating and arresting a suspect wanted in connection with a Terre Haute murder; and Long helped successfully diffuse a call in which a man had a knife to a woman’s throat, Plasse said.

Long and Shadow were involved in two major marijuana drug busts on I-70 this past year.

On the day officer Long responded to his final call, assistant chief Marc Eldred thanked Long for the job he was doing. “It comforts me to know Brent knew we were proud of him and the job he did for us,” Plasse said.

Plasse described Long as a “rising star” on the police force, although his death means the community will never know how bright his light would have shined.

The police chief thanked the community and other law enforcement for their support. “Nothing will take away the hurt of losing Brent, but the support I’ve witnessed will go a long way in healing our hearts,” he said.

Plasse told members of the Terre Haute Police Department “Together, we’ll get through this. We will heal, but we’ll have a scar forever.”

But, he said, there was nothing he could do or say to bring Long back to his family. “For that, I’m truly sorry,” Plasse said.

Before he walked off the stage, Plasse said, “We love you, Brent, and we miss you terribly.”

He and other speakers offered condolences, and support, to Long’s family, including wife Danielle, children Ashley and Levi and parents Cheryl Long and Ron Long.

Marc Eldred, assistant Terre Haute police chief, was a sergeant on the evening shift when Long began working as a newly hired officer, just out of the police academy.

“It didn’t take long to see that Brent was highly motivated, had a great attitude and was eager to learn,” Eldred said. “He displayed exceptional initiative and work ethic” and was always willing to accept greater responsibility. He continually wanted to learn new skills that would help him better perform his duties.

 After Long became a K-9 officer working with Shadow, the two “made an immediate impact on the streets. They were a  tremendous crimefighting team.”

Eldred described Long as an outstanding police officer, highly respected by fellow officers and supervisors. “He was extremely dedicated in serving and protecting his community and he truly loved his job,” Eldred said. “He’ll be sadly missed, but never forgotten.”

Assistant chief Shawn Keen recalled when he first met Long; Keen worked the 3-to-11 shift at the police department, and Long was a jailer.

Keen said it was the end of his shift, and he was dealing with an uncooperative intoxicated person that he had taken to the jail. Keen’s patience was growing thin that night.

But Long, “something of a comedian,” totally changed his mood and had him laughing and “almost in tears” by the time the intoxicated person was booked in.

That was one of Long’s gifts, Keen said, “this ability he had to make you laugh.” 

Once Long became a police officer, “he right away stood out.” He had an easygoing personality and an “unbelievable work ethic,” Keen said.

Despite his accomplishments as a police officer, Long remained modest. “He is my hero,” Keen said.

Jean Frankel, Honey Creek Fire Department chief, said “public service was Brent’s passion … where there was action, that’s where he wanted to be.”

She also remembered him as “a big kid at heart” who loved working the Vigo County Fair with the fire department.

Frankel said if she has one regret, it is that she wishes she had taken the time to tell Long how proud she was of his accomplishments. “I take comfort in knowing that Brent is looking down upon us and he sees how much of an inspiration he was to all of us,” she said.

Long’s K-9 partner, Shadow, also participated in the funeral ceremony and joined other members of the THPD K-9 unit during a final salute.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

 

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