Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Clayton County officials (l-r) Sheriff Victor Hill, fire Chief Jeff Hood, Tax Commissioner Terry Baskins, District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson and Chief Magistrate Judge Daphne Walker, state Sen. Gail Davenport and Solicitor General Tasha Mosley join Sgt. Gazzara Hill in the invocation.
By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — It's been an emotionally tough four months for Darlene Callahan Rogers.
Christmas fell a week after her only son, Sean Louis Callahan, was killed in the line of duty as a Clayton County police officer. He would have celebrated his 25th birthday in February.
On Monday, Callahan's name joined 678 others on the Georgia Law Enforcement Moving Memorial during ceremonies at Clayton County police headquarters. The memorial, sponsored by the Blue Knights Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club Chapter 7, commemorates men and women who died serving their communities in Georgia.
Callahan died Dec. 18, the day after being shot at a Stockbridge motel. He and other officers responded to a domestic dispute and were trying to take a couple into custody. The husband allegedly broke free and ran. When Callahan gave chase, the man reportedly fired on him. Other officers returned fire, killing the alleged shooter.
Rogers said her son died doing what he loved.
"Being a police officer was what he was passionate about," she said. "He proudly put on his uniform every day. It was what he was destined to do. It was his dream job but it terrified me."
Rogers, accompanied by her daughter, Candice Shirley, and Callahan's girlfriend, Melody Benjamin, and other relatives, listened as Chief Greg Porter and Commission Chairman Jeff Turner lauded Callahan and his sacrifice to Clayton County. Turner preceded Porter as chief and spent most of his adult life as a Clayton County police officer.
"When there is danger, law enforcement officers run to it," said Turner. "Even though I am out of law enforcement, I still bleed blue. Officer Callahan is among those heroes who gave their tomorrows for our todays. They deserve honor, love and the greatest respect. We owe them a debt we can never repay and I extend a 'thank you' to those who stand between us and harm."
Callahan was the first Clayton County police officer to die by gunfire in the line of duty, and the first to die during Porter's term as chief. He directed comments to Rogers from the podium.
"Darlene, I too dread the call that drew us together at the emergency room at Grady that day," said Porter. "To me, Sean was my son. He was my first loss as police chief and it is my prayer we don't lose another son or daughter. I still find myself asking, 'Why, Lord, did you call Sean home?'"
But it was the words of the mother that brought tears to the eyes of those listening on the lawn of the police department. Flags slapped in the wind and dozens of uniformed officers stood in silent respect as Rogers took the podium and spoke from the heart. Her daughter stood beside her.
"He was an excellent cook," said Rogers. "I told him he would become a better cook than I will ever be. He was a great dancer. His buddies used to love taking him to the clubs because the girls all flocked to Sean. He loved playing 'Call of Duty.' I can still see him sitting there, with his headphones and microphone on, talking to the other players, 'What is this dude doing? Come on.'"
Rogers said Callahan was "always a good son."
"He was never ashamed to be seen with me at the movies or at the mall," she said. "He always called me at 1:30 as he started his shift. I always told him, 'Be safe, have a good shift and I love you.' Those are memories I will cherish forever. I miss that sweet face and gentle voice. I am very proud my son gave his all doing what he loved most."
After the ceremony, Rogers unveiled his name on the memorial. She and Shirley embraced. Rogers linked arms with Benjamin.
"This means he will never be forgotten," said Benjamin. "It gets quiet after, you know, and you wonder if people still remember."
Rogers can't forget the son she mourns and wants every day to see again.
"I can't believe he's gone," she said. "He was kind and loving, everything a son should be."
But she knows it is not what Callahan would want.
"I always wonder that if he knew what was going to happen to him that day, would he still go to work?" Rogers said. "The answer is, 'Yes, he would have.'"