FORT SMITH (KFSM)-- The family of fallen Sebastian County Cpl. Bill Cooper will not have to worry about the cost of his burial Tuesday (Aug. 17).
City leaders have amended an ordinance, which will help cover some of the costs for Fort Smith Police officers, Sebastian County Sheriff's officers and other first responders killed in the line of duty.
“It`s another just loving way of showing law enforcement, and firefighters and first responders that our community certainly does care about what they do, the service that they provide,” Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck said.
The City of Fort Smith will donate the grave plot and pay for burial costs of any locally sworn officer or firefighter killed in the line of duty. A second grave spot may also be donated for another loved one, if requested by the fallen officer's estate. The sheriff said this gives Cpl. Cooper's family one less thing to worry about during this difficult time.
“That takes a major load off of Bill Cooper`s wife,” Hollenbeck said.
The Sebastian County Sheriff's Office has lost four deputies while on duty in its 165-year history. Wiley Cox was killed in the line of duty in 1891. Maj. Kevin Nickson worked at the sheriff's office when Deputy Ronald Kanze passed away in 1997 and when Cpl. Terry Johnson died on the job three years ago..
“2013 was a terrible loss to the department and to the community of Fort Smith,” Nickson said.
Nickson said he doesn't remember funeral costs ever being a problem thanks to a community that always seems to pull together when tragedy strikes, but he says the amended city ordinance guarantees that.
“Terry Johnson's wife, even Cpl. Cooper, and all of the fallen officer's family is probably going to be in great support of that,” Nickson said.
The sheriff said McConnell Funeral Home in Greenwood also donated its services to Cpl. Cooper, and other local funeral homes have offered to do the same for fallen first responders.
“I think it`s just one more wonderful thing that the community has done,” Hollenbeck said.