Members of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives hit the pavement early Friday with gloves and cleaning supplies. They headed down dirt roads, squeezed through fences and rolled up their shirtsleeves to clean the graves.
These graves were marked with names such as Bo, Fleece and Sheldon — fellow law enforcement officers who had been killed in the line of duty in Pasco County.
The deputies and agents gather once a year to clean the graves and headstones just before an annual memorial service. On Friday they traveled from Lakeland to Brooksville to tend to eight grave sites. They scrubbed each headstone, swept around it and picked up any debris near it, and if a family member was buried nearby they cleaned that one as well.
They chatted and told stories about the ones they knew, recalling the booming laugh of Pasco sheriff's Lt. Charles "Bo" Harrison and what a great friend he was to everyone. He was killed in 2003 when someone shot at his patrol car.
Around noon they were at the grave of Pasco sheriff's Deputy Bert McCabe, who is buried at Socrum Cemetery in Lakeland. McCabe was killed in 1948 when a truck veered into his travel lane and struck his patrol car.
The ATF agents came along to pay respect to Agent John Waters of the U.S. Treasury Department, who was shot and killed in 1922 with Constable Fleece Crenshaw while investigating moonshine stills in Pasco County. They were ambushed as they sat in their car. Waters is buried in the Williams Cemetery in San Antonio. Crenshaw is buried in the Trilby Cemetery.
The law enforcement agents ended the day at the grave of Hernando sheriff's Deputy John Mecklenburg, who is buried at Florida Hills Memorial Gardens in Brooksville. Mecklenburg was killed in 2011 in a car chase that ended in Pasco County.
"It does not matter what law enforcement agency they came from," Capt. Mike Schreck said. "If they died in Pasco County we are here to remember them."
Pasco's service for slain officers will be held at 7:30 p.m. May 4 at the historic courthouse in Dade City. The public is invited.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Deputy Bert McCabe died in a car crash in 1948. The original version of this article gave an incorrect year.