On this date three years ago, a lone gunman carried out a preplanned attack on Baton Rouge law enforcement. Three brave men lost their lives: Officer Matthew Gerald, Corporal Montrell Jackson and East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafola. Deputy Nick Tullier was also critically wounded.
The emotions of July 17th, 2016 are still felt throughout the Capitol City, and today we spoke with the family of one of those brave officers who sacrificed himself to save others.
“My heart is heavy. But the admiration and pride I feel gives me the strength I need to carry on.”
Dechia Gerald spoke those words in 2016 shortly after losing her husband. Three years later, the pain is still present.
“Our hearts still ache every day,” Gerald said. “We still have our struggles. But we’re pressing forward and moving on.”
Dechia struggles with this day and welcomes the community’s support.
“I didn’t want to get up. I don’t wan’t to relive this day, time and time again. But even before I got up this morning I had numerous messages, people checking one me. How are you doing? Just letting you know I’m thinking about you. Praying for you and the kids, and it’s a good feeling that my husband’s sacrifices are not being forgotten.”
A daily reminder of Matthew is “Baby Buttons”, their son Falyn, now 2 years old, born 8 months after Matthew’s passing.
“He looks just like his dad,” Dechia said. “A lot of time his mannerisms are just like his dad. And he definitely has his dad’s humor for sure. Even at the age of two, he can be funny at times.”
Now raising four children, including a five-month old, Dechia strives daily to honor Matthew’s legacy, while helping her family move on from tragedy.
“Of course I’m hard on myself. Because am I doing enough, am I doing a good enough job? Am I doing what my kids need me to do? But at the same time It’s still having to honor your dead husband. Is he proud of me? Would he be proud of me at this point? Have I done everything i can do up until this point to honor him up until this point.”
The family visited Matthew’s gravesite today, an emotional experience for all.
“We went to the gravesite to leave our flowers….my kids really don’t like to go there. We usually go twice a year for Father’s Day and the anniversary. We usually do other things like baloon releases and things at home.”
Dechia continues to support the work of the Capital Area Law Enforcement Foundation, aiming to better equip our law enforcement officers with the hopes of preventing any families from experiencing similar loss.