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Local Police Organization Erects Memorial Sign for Officer Daryl Pierson

Police carOn September 3, 2014, Rochester Police Officer Daryl Pierson, 32, was fatally shot in the line of duty while trying to apprehend Thomas Johnson III, a parole absconder. After drawing attention across Monroe County for months, the case has finally been settled: on May 8, a jury convicted Johnson of aggravated murder, as well as the attempted aggravated murder of Pierson’s partner, Officer Michael DiPaola. However, even as the media attention around the case fades, the Rochester law enforcement community is sure Rochester won’t forget Pierson. Thanks to a sign erected by a group of police officers from around Western and Central New York, the fallen officer’s memory and legacy is sure to live on.

The Badge of Honor Association (BOHA) was formed by Rochester Police Sergeant Justin Collins in 2007 to raise money for the families of police officers killed in the line of duty throughout Western and Central New York. Since then, the group has placed 14 signs around the city of Rochester, and about 12 around Monroe County, including one at the site of the Christmas Eve 2012 shooting in Webster, which killed two firefighters. In total, as many as 100 signs have been installed in the group’s territory, which stretches from Buffalo to Syracuse.

However, early on the morning of Thursday, May 7, Collins and the rest of the association honored a fellow RPD officer for the first time. The ceremony was attended by several hundred people, including Pierson’s family, members from all divisions of the Rochester Police Department, and law enforcement officials from across the state. The sign was installed at the same corner where Pierson was shot under the chin while chasing Johnson before dying, hours later, at Rochester General Hospital.

The blue and white sign includes an image of Pierson’s RPD patch, his name and the date he died. The BOHA stated that the sign will serve as a symbol of gratitude to fallen police officers, a reminder of the tragedy, and a way to reclaim the corner as a place of legacy rather than sadness. According to studies, erecting a sign might be the best way to do this: The average person is reported to see a sign about twice per day, or about 60 times per month.

BOHA is made up of 40 local volunteers and 20 others from police agencies across the state, which provide financial contributions and plan occasional fundraisers, including the Policeman’s Ball. At the end of every year, the money the group raises is divided among the number of officers who were killed in the line of duty, and checks are then sent to their families. Over the years, BOHA has given more than $100,000 to the families of eight fallen officers, as well as an additional $34,000 for local charities for children. However, Collins says the group is always looking for additional support from other first responders and volunteers in the community.

Johnson was initially charged with the aggravated murder of Pierson, the attempted aggravated murder of DiPaola, first-degree assault for shooting a bystander, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and two counts of third-degree criminal possession of weapon. Following his conviction, he has been scheduled to face sentencing on June 30. He faces life in prison.