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Street named after fallen officer

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By Jim Clark

After a ceremony last week, it will be a little easier for residents to remember what sacrifice Williston Police Cpl. David Moss paid for them on a fateful night 20 years ago.

At an annual police memorial, Williston unveiled a street sign renaming a stretch of Southwest Main Street, between Southwest First Avenue and Noble Avenue, in honor of the only officer ever killed in the line of duty from the Williston police force.

Moss confronted a suspect in the early morning hours of July 30, 1988, and the two exchanged gunfire. Both were killed in the incident.

At the event last Wednesday morning, Moss' wife spoke to the crowd and urged the officers to wear their vests.

Her current husband, Traveler Wendell, gave a detailed minute-by-minute account of the confrontation in 1988 after doing extensive research.

The complete speeches of both are on Page 23 today.

Chief Daniel Davis spoke briefly and said there was "some justice" in the fact that Moss' name was remembered, but that few could recall the name of "the other guy." Davis added, "The name of the other person has disappeared in ignominy."

Local officers as well as representatives of the Sheriff's Office attended the event.

STATEMENT OF LORI MOSS

Morning Everyone,

I am not usually one for speeches or talking in front of groups, but I thought it was time I said a few things...and this seemed like the ideal opportunity. First and foremost...thank you all for coming today and for honoring David with your caring, and for helping me to keep his memory alive......that is very important to me.

I have always tried to walk that fine line between honoring David and becoming the center of all this attention myself...I hope I have succeeded in this...this is all about David, and I have always tried to make sure it is all about David.

This is really not about me...and those of you that know me will most probably get a good laugh out of that, since every thing else IS all about me......but This, this is about honor and respect and showing support to our Law Enforcement heroes.

hhmm, did I say that out loud? Heroes? oh yea, heroes, each and every one of those people who put on the badge and go out there and stand between me and chaos is a hero in my eyes - not just the ones who make it into the news, but Every Single ONE of them.

It is important to remember that although I may think of them as heroes and as larger than life guardians of our lives and property, I never lose sight of the fact that they are human first.

They are subject to the same emotions and ambitions, fears, limitations and temptations as all of us are, but they set those aside and do what most are called to do, Serve and Protect.

This sometimes entails getting all kinds of negative reactions and having all kinds of nasty things happen to them and around them... of course, most see this as part of the job...where you or I would most likely freak out...they just shrug and move on.

It takes a special type of person to do this - one who thinks that the masses are worth that effort and sacrifice. One who feels that people are important, and deserve their respect and protection. One with the courage and determination to step up even when they know it's going to hurt.

I am sure that you have all heard the most popular definition of bravery or courage, right? The one that says that courage is being afraid and still stepping in to do what is right - still moving forward even when terrified?

That is what these folks do every single day....they see things that would send me screaming into the night and would give me nightmares, if I ever managed to sleep again!

So, as you can tell, I do NOT think that this is all about me...I just happen to be one of the living reminders of what can go wrong - I make you think about what 'might' happen, I make you remember what 'did' happen...so I am sure I am not your favorite person.

But along with some of the other things that cause me to have such great respect for this profession is this very thing, although I am not your favorite person, and I remind you of one of the most terrible times in your career, you Still hold me close and keep me as part of this very special family...this is humbling and a great honor.

And along with honoring David, I would like to thank and honor each and every one of you. Thank you.

STATEMENT OF TRAVELER WENDELL

I've been asked to read to you from a book that Lori Moss and I co-wrote, with the help of many, many others, to memorialize Cpl. David Wayne Moss on the twentieth anniversary of his murder.

I will certainly do that but I want to mention a few things first that I believe are important to the story and are certainly important to the reasons that we decided to attempt this project.

First, I want to thank everybody for being here this morning because what that shows is that you think that Cpl. Moss's sacrifice for this community and also what we're doing here today is important.

I've heard that one of the worst parts of losing someone that you love, is to think that no one remembers them anymore. We're trying to make sure that doesn't happen in this case.

Cpl. Moss, David, was murdered on July 30th, 1988. He went to work like most any other day. It was hot, like it usually is this time of year and that fact figured into the fatal decision he made that night. Although, it was his decision and in hindsight, it might seem ill advised, it was not a decision that hasn't been made by most every other law enforcement officer, then and in some cases even now.

When you do something day after day or night after night, what ever the case might be, when nothing bad happens, it's easy to believe that it never will.

David is proof that it can. In his death David is telling you that it does happen, and if you follow such things in the news or on the internet, you realize that it happens on quite a regular basis.

In fact, the year David was murdered he was only one of a total of 194 Law Enforcement officers that were killed in the line of duty in the United States.

So, second, besides remembering and honoring David and memorializing his sacrifice for this community, if Lori and I can ask you to do one more thing, if we could give you one more way to honor David, it would be for those who work in Law Enforcement to take advantage of the safety equipment that's available to you.

What you do on a daily basis is a great service to your community but it does not have to cost you your life. Wear your vest and, although most officers believe it is a personal decision, if you see a fellow officer not wearing their vest, remind them of David, remind them how fast it can turn from a hot night in July to the last night of their life. Please make your vest a part of your uniform.

And third, I think it's important to note that we are not the ones who decided what most likely occurred that night, even the investigating officers didn't decide that or the coroner for that matter.

The physical evidence that we have, the documents that were generated at the time, the recollections of those that were there, taken all together as a complete body of evidence, that is what tells us what is the most likely scenario of what happened that night. And after twenty years that evidence hasn't changed much.

From what we know of the circumstances, we can assume a lot of things, but in the end, it's the evidence that says, this is what we know, it may or may not be exactly what actually happened that night but from all we have available, this is what the evidence tells us.

(excerpt from Cpl. David Moss a memorial by Traveler Wendell and Lori Moss)

2300 hours

As was customary on the 11-7 shift, when Corporal Moss arrived at work, he and the other officer on duty, Officer Bruce Snyder, received a list of local businesses. One would take the list for the east side of town and the other, the west side of town. Sometime in their shift they were to check the doors of the businesses on their list.

0156 hours

Two hours or so into their shift the two officers had made a few traffic stops, usually backing each other up when possible and now Officer Snyder heard the normal chatter on the radio as he started checking the doors of east side businesses off his list.

0209 hours

Corporal Moss drove up to a disabled vehicle near the corner of SW 6th Street and SW 1st Avenue. Finding it unoccupied he called in the tag number and most likely recognized the car as one that Officer Snyder and he had checked on the night before, parked behind one of the local churches. At that time they had made contact with the owner who explained that he was having some difficulty at home and planned to sleep in his car for the night. It's feasible that David would have believed that the young man was out for the second night in a row, when his car had broken down. He called it in anyway, but it didn't show up as stolen or wanted.

0217 hours

Officer Snyder noticed continuing calls from the dispatcher trying to contact Corporal Moss. He went back to his car, radioed for the last known location Moss had given and drove to that area.

0220 hours

Officer Snyder found Corporal Moss's patrol car on SW 6th Street, just north of the disabled car, pointed in a northerly direction. The motor in David's car was running, the driver's side door was ajar and a portable radio was on the seat. It appeared that either Corporal Moss had exited the car in a hurry or had just stepped out to speak with someone at the side of the road. Either way, Officer Snyder sensed that Moss had not planned on being away from his patrol car for an extended period of time.

0226 hours

Officer Snyder, walking in the direction David's patrol car was pointing, eventually ended up at Doug's auto parts on West Noble Avenue. Crossing in front of the auto parts store he turned down an alley between the business and the building next door. The auto parts building, one story in front but two stories further back, had a set of stairs on the side facing the alley. Officer Snyder climbed these stairs to get a better vantage point of the alley and the area behind the buildings which was at least knee deep with weeds and grass, littered with parts of old cars and other refuse. Even with the full moon, it was dark in the area between and behind the two buildings.

0229 hours

Looking down from the stairs, Officer Snyder caught sight of a small halo of light in the weeds below. He climbed back down the stairs and there in the tall grass, found Corporal Moss's flash light. It was switched on but pointed lens end down so it emitted only a small circle of light from below it. Officer Snyder, knowing now that Corporal Moss was most likely close by, started searching the area behind the buildings.

0230 hours

Just a few yards to the southeast of where he found the flashlight, Officer Snyder found Corporal Moss's body. He was mostly face down with his .357 revolver partially under his left leg. Officer Snyder felt for a pulse but found none. He radioed dispatch that he had found Corporal Moss and requested a med unit to his destination.

Subsequently, a few yards to the east of Corporal Moss's body Officer Snyder found his assailant, on his back, also with no pulse apparent. It appeared to Officer Snyder that Moss' assailant had crouched down to hide or to lie in wait for Corporal Moss because there was some caked dirt on one of his knees where he had knelt in the damp grass.

0232 hours

Sure that Moss' assailant was no longer a danger to himself or responding emergency personnel, Officer Snyder walked back to where Corporal Moss lay on the ground. He tried to brush away the red ants that were starting to accumulate on Corporal Moss. Snyder knew he couldn't move Corporal Moss away from the ant mound because of the chance of destroying evidence. This scene was one that Officer Snyder would later say was etched into his memory forever, one of only a few scenes in his eventual lengthy law enforcement career that he would always remember vividly.