Vargas: Few know the stories of those impacted when a police officer is killed

By Joe Vargas

I finally had a chance to watch the documentary “Fallen,” a 2017 production now available on Netflix and for purchase on YouTube. The documentary attempts to capture the impact the line-of-duty death of a law enforcement officer has on departments, families, and the communities in which they work. Actor Michael Chicklis from “The Shield” narrates the film.

The film is the life work of Thomas Marchese, a retired sergeant from the Soledad Police Department. Marchese himself was nearly fatally stabbed during a confrontation in the field, forcing his medical retirement.

If you believe police officers don’t cry, you are mistaken. When a comrade, a coworker, or a friend loses their life doing their job it is heart wrenching.

Interviews with the fallen officer’s coworkers are moving and their emotional scars are visible. More than one coworker gets teary-eyed and chokes up as they recount the events.

The family interviews are equally difficult.

In one scene, Amy Richardson, widow of Aiken County Officer Scotty Richardson, recounts having to make the decision to “pull the plug” on her husband. The tears flow as she says, “I know I didn’t kill him, but I still feel like I did.”

How do you tell a child their daddy or mommy died because someone didn’t like the fact they were wearing a police uniform? That’s exactly what happened in Lakewood, WA, in 2009 when four officers were killed in a coffee shop while writing reports. The gunman just hated cops.

The incidents featured in the video are from around the country and include Austin, Texas; Aiken, NC; Lakewood, WA; and other cities.

I think everyone should watch this film. This film helps you understand exactly why officers are so vigilant. It answers questions about why compliance is so important, why the officers need to see your hands, and why they unholster their sidearms when responding to calls.

It’s simple: No police officer wants to die.

Please take the time to watch this film. Just make sure you have a box of tissues handy.

Joe is a retired captain. He can be reached at