Michael Blankenship is the only University Police officer to die in the line of duty, and on Friday, he was honored at the police station named after him.
University Police participated in the annual Peace Officers Memorial Ceremony as part of National Police Week, where it not only honored Blankenship, but paid respects to all officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty as well as those still serving the community.
“He helped me understand what it meant to be a police officer and do things the right way,” said Kimberly Spears-McNatt, deputy chief and soon-to-be interim chief. “Mike has a special place in our hearts.”
Blankenship was killed in the line of duty on Nov. 10, 1997, when he responded with his partner to a report of suspicious activity at the Wexner Center of Arts. They attempted to remove the man who refused to leave, but the suspect pulled a gun and fatally shot Blankenship.
“It takes a special person to wear this badge and stand in front of danger,” Spears-McNatt said.
Spears-McNatt, who will officially take over as interim chief on June 12, acknowledged the role those before her played in her own life, making special note of the women who came before and of course Blankenship himself.
Police Chief Craig Stone also gave his thoughts on Blankenship and acknowledged the burden of his family, who was in attendance as they are every year.
“We will never forget officer Michael Blankenship,” Stone said. “Together we share your sorrow and loss.”
In addition to Blankenship, the names of all the officers from Ohio who lost their lives in the line of duty were named and a wreath was laid beneath a half-mast American flag in their honor.
Special recognition was given to the Westerville police officers, Anthony Morelli and Eric Joering, who were shot while responding to a 911 call in February.
An officer ended the ceremony by playing “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes, symbolically walking alone away from the station as a riderless police horse did the same in the opposite direction, and the audience was left with their thoughts.
“This is a time to stop and reflect on all those heroes who have gone before us,” Stone said.