It is fitting that the Exit 22 bridge near where Lumberton police Officer Jeremiah Goodson was shot and killed has been dedicated in his honor and that signs will be erected that will remind motorists of his sacrifice at the young age of 32 years.
It was a Fayetteville police detective, Stig Larson, who took the first step in what turned out to be a more-than-two-year journey that culminated with a dedication ceremony last week, and he certainly had plenty of help along the way, most notably from Erich Hackney, a Lumberton councilman and an investigator with the local District Attorney’s Office. Larson was prompted by a similar tribute on Interstate 95 in Cumberland County to a highway patrolman and a sheriff’s deputy who both lost their lives the same way as did Goodson — to an idiot with a weapon.
You probably know Goodson’s story, but if not, we will share it again: Goodson was off-duty on July 17, 2012, when he was traveling Fayetteville Road and saw 27-year-old Marques Brown in a parking lot at the Xpress Depot. Goodson knew there were multiple warrants for Brown’s arrest and, even though he was off-duty, circled back to take him into custody.
Brown, who had a criminal history dating back to 2003, opened fire, striking Goodson multiple times and killing him. Brown awaits trial for first-degree murder and could be sentenced to death if convicted. While we are ambivalent about the death penalty, Brown is the perfect candidate. There is no doubt about his guilt, and his actions could not have been more cowardly.
Goodson, the first Lumberton police officer killed in the line of duty since 1936, left behind his wife, Lametria, a 16-year-old the couple cared for, their 2-year-old daughter, and a son who was born eight days after his dad’s murder. There was an outpouring support for the family following Goodson’s murder, and last week it was rebooted.
The dedication is a needed reminder of the dangers that police officers routinely encounter while try to keep the peace for the public. We will get this out of the way now: Yes, there are bad cops, just as there are bad doctors, bad teachers, bad journalists, bad lawyers, bad carpenters, bad politicians and the list goes on, but the vast majority of officers are doing good work and for far-too-little pay.
The narrative during the last few months has not been kind to police officers across the country as a rogue few have soiled the whole lot, especially in deadly encounters with unarmed young blacks. Goodson was black, as was his killer, so this story has not been hijacked for political reasons.
Goodson was a pretty regular guy who was trying to do good in his community, including having worked as a resource officer at Lumberton Senior High School, where he helped steer some at-risk kids onto a better path. In other words, he was like most cops.
Last week’s memorial is a timely reminder of that, and the signs along Exit 22 that will be erected in his memory will keep fresh in our collective mind Jeremiah Goodson’s sacrifice — as well as the threats that his colleagues face daily.