Diners at MOD Pizza last week got a rare treat as police from several local law enforcement agencies participated in a fashion show to claim bragging rights among their colleagues, and more importantly, to raise money for the surviving family members of local officers lost in the line of duty.
The “Mr. and Ms. Gulf Coast’s Finest 2020” event was sponsored by MOD Pizza, Gamers N’ Geeks and Francia’s Formal Attire, and the unique contest gave the community a rare chance to see some of the men and women who serve and protect them put on their best attire and woo a panel of local judges.
The contestants, which included officers from the Mobile Police Department (MPD) and the Mobile County Sheriff’s Department, were judged on their swag, stage presence and poise, engagement with the audience and their response to a series of questions posed by the judges.
Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste said he thought all of the contestants delivered, but it was ultimately two of his department’s own, officer Nathaniel McCarty and detective Ophelia Weathington, who took home the top prizes and the title of “Mr. and Ms. Gulf Coast’s Finest 2020.”
“It really was an outstanding event,” Battiste said. “It was well attended, and I truly enjoyed being one of the judges. Fifty percent of all the sales that night went to our chapter of Families of the Fallen and the money that was raised will stay here in Mobile and be used to support local families.”
While MPD has always supported fallen officers and their families through the Mobile Law Enforcement Foundation, the Families of the Fallen organization has chapters around the country and has a more specific goal of engaging with and supporting the families of slain police officers directly.
Speaking to Lagniappe, Battiste said the local chapter was started after officer Justin Billa was killed in February 2018. One of the first official acts it organized was to take 10-year-old Trey Greene along with officers as a VIP guest in a Mardi Gras parade last year. Greene’s father, MPD officer Steven Greene, was killed at Mobile County Metro Jail while transporting a suspect during Mardi Gras in 2012.
Unfortunately, MPD has become familiar with losing officers lately. Just over a year after Billa’s death, the department laid to rest officer Sean Tuder, who was killed by a wanted suspect earlier this year after he responded to a tip from a criminal informant on what was supposed to be his day off.
Then less than 48 hours after last week’s event at MOD Pizza ended, MPD lost another officer — this one to an apparent suicide. Police confirmed Dec. 13 that officer Justin Carmen died of “a self-inflicted gunshot wound” shortly after he was found near the intersections of Florida and Emogene streets. According to police, Carmen, 29, joined the force in March and graduated from the MPD academy in June.
“These families grieve forever and sometimes officers leave behind small children and we have to let them know that there is a support mechanism in place for them,” Battiste said. “One of the things Families of the Fallen does for us is it really helps to make sure that they stay relevant as people who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for our communities and so the families know they still have a network of men and women who still love them and still care about them.”
This page is available to our subscribers. Join us right now to get the latest local news from local reporters for local readers.
The best deal is found by clicking here. Click here right now to find out more. Check it out.
Already a member of the Lagniappe family? Sign in by clicking here