DEWITT TOWNSHIP, Mich. — DeWitt Township Police Sgt. Bill Darnell passed away from COVID-19 on Nov. 4. It was a loss felt throughout the township.
"Bill was a day-shift sergeant, and he was, as I've said many times before, kind of the glue that held this department together, the voice of reason," DeWitt Township Police Chief Mike Gute said. "Losing him was a huge loss to us."
"He literally lit up a room. I think that's what we miss the most. The room is pretty empty," said Bill's wife, Ellie Darnell.
In 2009, Darnell was honored by President Barack Obama as a National Association of Police Organizations Top Cop.
"In 2008, Bill responded, along with DeWitt city, to a domestic-type situation at an apartment complex," Gute said. "They made contact with the victim. She felt that the suspect that was trying to gain entry into her apartment was possibly her ex-husband. Bill went down the stairs to check and see if he could find anybody in the parking lot. When Bill got to the bottom of the stairs, he was shot point-blank in the face. Bill was able to recover. He was injured but not out of the fight."
When the suspect attempted to flee, Darnell shot and killed him.
"Getting honored - getting the chance to go to the White House during Obama's [term] - was probably one of the highlights of his life," Ellie said.
"As a community, as a department, we're very proud of that. Those awards are very few and far between. That we had one, somebody had earned that award working right here with us," Gute said.
Wednesday morning the DeWitt Township Police Department received a visit from a Washington nonprofit called Beyond the Call of Duty as part of the organization's Ride to Remember.
The Ride to Remember is an 84-day nationwide tour that nonprofit founder and chairman Jagrut Shah started last year. The caravan of motorcyclists and their memorial trailer visit all the police stations across the U.S. that had an officer pass away in the line of duty that year, which this year is 196 departments. The DeWitt Township stop was day 69.
"I think it's pretty important to let departments know that their loss is being felt across the nation, and that survivors know across the nation that their loved ones are going to be remembered," Shah said.
"It is nice with things like this that he lives on," Ellie said.
At the end of each year, Beyond the Call of Duty makes donations to police departments across the U.S. If you would like to contribute to the cause, click here.
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