Finally heroes: Retired Mississippi officer, monument company memorialize fallen officers never recognized
Published 6:52 am Friday, July 1, 2022
On June 24, 2022, 106 years after he was shot and killed while doing his job, Charles Stites was finally recognized as a hero.
There was no elaborate ceremony, no 20-gun salute — only the placement of a simple marker with the words “Killed in the Line of Duty.”
Thanks to retired Vicksburg police officer Doug Arp and Ronnie Gibson of Gibson Monuments & Vases the marker is now in place at Stites’ grave in Cedar Hill Cemetery more than a century after the officer’s death.
Stites, 56, a Vicksburg police captain and 20-year veteran in the department, was shot and killed when he heard glass breaking, went to investigate and interrupted three men burglarizing a downtown store.
All three men were apprehended and convicted of Stites’ murder. One was sentenced to death and the other two were sentenced to life in prison. On July 3, 1917, one of the suspects who was sentenced to life told officials that he was the one who fired the fatal shot. The other suspect’s death sentence was then commuted to life.
On Jan. 14, 1918, the suspect who confessed escaped from the state prison farm in Rankin County. He was captured on July 28, 1924, in Montesano, Wash.
Stites’ marker is the latest of four markers that have been placed at the graves of former law enforcement officers found by retired Vicksburg police officer Doug Arp, who since 2017 has been looking for officers who were killed in the line of duty and whose sacrifices have gone unnoticed.
“There are many officers in the Vicksburg and Port Gibson area and we’ve found 10 or 11 of them,” Arp said. “They’re scattered all over some in the cemeteries in the county and the city. One by one, we’re trying to find as many officers marked as possible. All killed in the line of duty.”
The first officer Arp found was Clarence Lanier, a sheriff’s deputy who was killed on Aug. 10, 1930, by two men outside a business called the Old Log Store on what was then Mississippi 27 in Warren County, south of Vicksburg.
The officers’ graves are marked by a simple grave marker with the officer’s name, the date he was killed, an etching of the department’s shoulder patch and the words, “Killed in the Line of Duty.” Gibson donates the grave markers.
“So far, we’ve done four officers; two in Port Gibson,” Arp said. “We know of four or five more and I’ve found one that is not on the police department’s memorial. Ronnie’s going to etch that one in.”