Trooper honored for ultimate sacrifice
By Ashley McLeod, Staff Writer
Jul 24, 2014, 12:10
ASHLEY MCLEOD/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Family members of slain Virginia State Trooper Leo Whitt were presented with a memorial sign on Friday during a ceremony dedicating the Trooper Leo Whitt Memorial Bridge.
PRINCE GEORGE — On April 12, 1985, Virginia State Police Trooper Leo Whitt lost his life while performing a routine traffic stop on Interstate 95 just north of Sussex County.
On Friday, July 19, 29 years after this tragic event, Whitt was memorialized in a ceremony dedicating the Johns Road/Route 667 Bridge as the Trooper Leo Whitt Memorial Bridge.
Members of the Prince George Board of Supervisors, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and the Virginia State Police gathered with family, friends and coworkers of Whitt for the dedication ceremony to honor the fallen trooper, so that his sacrifice would not be forgotten.
“Leo Whitt was one of Virginia’s finest. ... His work, his commitment to this community and his commitment to public safety and his commitment to public service be honored and remembered and not just today, not just tomorrow, and not just every year at the State Police Academy, but every day. This bridge will be a lasting testament to Leo Whitt and his service,” said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, the superintendent for the Virginia State Police.
Whitt moved himself and his family to Prince George after completing training at the police academy. On the evening of April 12, 1985, Whitt was on duty during a routine traffic stop, when the occupant of the car pulled a gun and shot him. The shooter then fled the scene, and was later spotted at a restaurant on Laburnum Avenue in Henrico. Police tried to apprehend the suspect, but he fled the scene. Following an extensive search, Gregory W. Beaver Jr., 20, of Brunswick, Md., was found and arrested. Beaver was charged with capital murder, pleaded guilty in court, and was sentenced to death. On Dec. 3, 1996, Beaver was executed by lethal injection.
Another suspect, Andrew P. Sandborn, 24, of Haverhill, Mass., was also apprehended and charged with vehicle theft.
Whitt left behind his wife and two children. His daughter, Angela Kyle, remembers her father as a great man, who did everything for his family and worked hard to provide them with a good life.
“My dad was a good dad. He put us first in everything that he did,” Kyle said. “He came a long way in a short time. He was able to have a job he really wanted, and he accomplished a lot in the community.”
Kyle described her father as someone who strived to do the right thing all the time. He was a punctual man, and expected his children to be the same way.
Col. W. Steven Flaherty, superintendent for the Virginia State Police, spoke at the ceremony on Friday. Flaherty described Whitt as “one of Virginia’s finest.”
Virginia State Police Mstr. Trooper C.W. Weaver worked with Whitt during his 21-year tenure with the Virginia State Police Department, and was close with his family before and after his death. During the ceremony, he described Whitt as the type of person who held things together, and helped whenever he could to do the right thing.
“I think it’s fitting that the memorial for Leo would be a bridge, because a bridge is something that goes across a span. I want to say that Leo and all of the other police officers of whatever uniform you wear, whatever community that you serve, you are a bridge between good and evil. Between light and darkness,” Weaver said.
Alan Carmichael, who serves on the Prince George Board of Supervisors, reminisced about his first job at the Golden Pancake House on South Crater Road in the late 1970s and early 1990s. Whitt would come dine at the restaurant, and speak with Carmichael on a regular basis. Carmichael said he never fails to tell those he is traveling with about Whitt while driving through the area where he died, and that his sacrifice will never be forgotten.
“Now today, not only will I continue to remember him, but now others that travel this road from years on will be able to see the sacrifice that he gave to the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Carmichael said.
During the ceremony, Whitt’s family was presented with a small version of the memorial signs, which are now posted on the bridge in remembrance of the trooper.
The ceremony, along with the posted signs, serves as a memorial to the fallen trooper, so that his hard work and passion for his community shines on even in his absence. The memorial bridge will keep his memory alive, not just for local drivers cruising past them, but also for visitors and other motorists traveling down through the area.
“His service and his duty, his dedication to service and his contribution to this community is going to be remembered. It is remembered,” Flaherty said. “He won’t be just a Virginia Trooper. ... They will know what he stood for. He’ll be missed, but he will never be forgotten.”