During southern visit, Georgia police honor Watertown officers involved in bombing gunfight, manhunt
Photo courtesy of LaGrange Police Department
Two Watertown police officers involved in the April 19 events surrounding the Boston Marathon bombing suspects received a dose of warm southern hospitality earlier this month in a trip to Georgia arranged by policemen there -- the first out-of-state visit the officers have made in relation to the terrorism events.
Watertown police officers Miguel Colon and Richard Munger were flown down to Georgia on Friday, May 31 and stayed through Sunday, June 2 on funds raised by the LaGrange Police Department in Troup County, where the Watertown officers were the guests of honor at a charity run benefitting The One Fund Boston.
Colon was reportedly involved in the gunfight between Watertown police and Boston Marathon bombing suspect brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. After Tamerlan died of injuries from the shootout, police and federal agents embarked on a city-wide manhunt in Watertown for Dzhokhar, who was found while Munger was on shift.
Garrett Pressley, an officer with LaGrange Police Department who helped organize the trip, said the department used a combination of donated funds and discounted airfare packages donated by local travel agents to pay for Colon and Munger's flights to Georgia.
They received complimentary hotel rooms from the local Best Western, and meals - which were usually at beloved burger joints or premier restaurants in Troup County - were donated by the eateries' owners.
"Our goal was for them not to have to spend a dime while down here," Pressley said in a signature southern drawl, noting that the union president representing the Watertown officers helped connect the two departments after Pressley tried getting in touch with Boston police.
While in Georgia, the two Watertown officers visited various local police departments and the county sheriff's headquarters; boated across a local lake that covers half the county; and received a tour of Turner Field, where the Atlanta Braves play, Pressley said.
"We told them we had a surprise, and then took them to the Braves game. We wanted to make sure they had a memorable trip down here," Pressley said. "They gave the team's manager, Fredi Gonzalez, a Watertown Strong t-shirt."
The shirt turned out to be a well-liked gift: "While I was watching a Braves post-game program the other day, there was an interview with Fredi Gonzalez and he was wearing the shirt," Pressley said.
Colon and Munger also gave a PowerPoint presentation to law enforcement officials at Troup County's sheriff's headquarters and at the LaGrange Police Department, Pressley said.
Although certain details from the presentation were for police eyes only, Pressley said Colon and Munger showed maps of what happened and how close they were to the action.
"[Colon] reconstructed the events that happened [during the gunfight] in his own words, since he was one of the officers at the shooting," Pressley said. "He said they exchanged about 200 rounds of gunfire, and the brothers threw five IEDs at police, and that three of them detonated. He also said there were a few times where there was a pause, but that's when they [the Tsanaev brothers] began throwing bombs."
While Colon and Munger toured the different police departments, they received gifts like plaques honoring them and the Watertown department; police caps; and a proclamation from a local mayor -- the highest honor a mayor can give, Pressley said.
Their appearance at the charity run also drew a record crowd: nearly 200 runners sprinted down the race course, and another 500 people came to watch and meet the Watertown officers. In total, the LaGrange Police Department expects to donate about $6,000 to The One Fund Boston.
More than 20 other businesses sponsored the event, donating about $200 each, including a company run by comedian Jeff Foxworthy.
"That was the main reason we wanted to get somebody from up there down here," Pressley said, who also noted a LaGrange police officer who originally hailed from Boston helped inspire him to co-organize the event. "In the first week, we raised $150 from pre-registration. Once the announcement was made that they [the Watertown officers] were coming, online registration made over $1,000, and people kept calling the station to tell us how proud they were."
Pressley said he hopes the department will fly a LaGrange officer up to Massachusetts to present Boston officials with the check.
One thing the southern police officers really enjoyed was Colon and Munger's thick Boston accents, Pressley said, laughing also as he said a local reporter misunderstood Colon's description of Franklin Street - where Dzhokhar was found - as a "main street" of Watertown, which the reporter printed as a "mean street."
"We loved the Boston accents," Pressley said.
And following their visit, he said Colon and Munger have made friends in Georgia for life.
"We stay in touch - we text each other, we're real close now," Pressley said, also noting that they're now friends on Facebook, too. "We would like to come up there and spend time with those guys, with the new friends we met."
Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org