Robert H. Smith February 12, 1912 – June 11, 1919
A native of Surry County, Virginia, Robert Smith joined the Newport News Police Department at age 23. Officer Smith quickly moved up through the ranks to Captain. Newport News Justice E.S. Robinson remarked, “In Captain Smith the Newport News police force has lost one of the most valuable men it ever had.” Nowhere was this evidenced more keenly than in the manner in which Captain Smith lost his life, in an automobile accident while attempting to aid a fellow officer.
Robert Hayes DeKorte 1918 - September 23, 1921
Robert DeKorte left his native Philadelphia and served five years in the United States Navy during World War I before joining Newport News Police Department. Officer DeKorte had been with the department for only three years when he was slain with his own service weapon by a fugitive he was attempting to arrest. His untimely death at age 33 resulted in an outpouring of community action, both in the apprehension of the killer, and in support of Officer DeKorte’s widow and young son.
Weldon O. Bass May 7, 1926 – September 25, 1933
A Newport News native, Weldon Bass had a strong personal desire to serve his fellow man, evidenced when he gained admittance to the United States Army although underaged. Officer Bass first served with the Newport News Police Department from 1926 to 1928. He relinquished his sworn status to accept a job with the Peninsula Transit Corporation. Drawn back to police work, he rejoined the police department in May 1931. Officer Bass’ death at age 33 was especially tragic since the skilled motorcycle officer was killed in a motorcycle versus car accident.
Claude Thomas Parks May 10, 1943 – September 10, 1943
Motorcycle Officer Claude Parks hailed from Justiceville on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. He joined the Newport News Police Department in May 1943, and was assigned to the Motorcycle Squad two months later. On September 9, 1943, Officer Parks’ motorcycle collided with a Citizens Rapid Transit bus. He died the next day at the age of 25, thus ending his career at four months to the day of his hiring.
Charles Nelson Doughty November 8, 1940 – August 11, 1946
Raised in Machipango on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Charles Doughty joined the Newport News Police Department at the age of 25. The well-liked officer helped lead attempts to form a police union. Officer Doughty was shot with his own service weapon by a suspect he was attempting to arrest. A nearby cab driver assisted the wounded officer into his taxi, but the suspect wrenched the door open and shot Doughty a second time, this time fatally.
Courtney W. Cook April 19, 1960 – June 24, 1961
“Corky” Cook accomplished much in his short career with the Newport News Police Department, completing the Virginia State Training Academy and becoming a K-9 officer. He was killed along with Officer Clarence Small when the vehicle in which they were traveling, en route to a police raid of an illegal gambling house, was struck by another patrol unit responding to an unrelated emergency. The 27-year-old Officer Cook had been assigned a patrol unit just that evening because his K-9 had been hospitalized after a dog fight.
Clarence Eugene Small May 17, 1946 – June 24, 1961
Clarence Small holds the distinction of being the first African-American officer to join the Newport News Police Department. The 15-year veteran was killed in the same car crash that took the life of fellow police officer Courtney Cook. Officer Small grew up in Newport News, having moved from Florence, South Carolina, at age seven. As a student, he was involved in the debate team and high school football. As a police officer, his community involvement included service as a Boy Scout leader, membership in Masonic Lodge #9, and singing with the St. Paul A.M.E. Methodist Church choir.
Wallace Earl Nesbitt, Sr. November 28, 1967 – January 8, 1970
“A police officer is probably the most important person in public relations. He is on the street most of the time, and is always in the public eye,” Officer Wallace Nesbitt wrote in a college essay. His statement embodies the pride and dedication he felt as a police officer. He joined the Department after two tours of duty in Vietnam with the United States Army and Marine Corps. One night, a suspect broke free, grabbed the officer’s service weapon and shot both Nesbitt and a business owner. His son William, born after his father’s death, became a Newport News police officer in 1994.
Dennis Jerome Roberts July 20, 1970 – March 20, 1981
The youngest of 16 children, “D.J.” Roberts grew up wanting to help others. He was a Boy Scout, and later served as an army paramedic in Vietnam. After his tour, he joined the Newport News Police Department. Officer Roberts loved children and was befriended by a loyal group of young boys at his second job as a security officer at a local shopping center. While at his job, the 32-year-old officer was killed attempting to apprehend a shoplifter. Nearly a year later, his assailant critically wounded another officer before being killed in a gun battle with police in the same store.
Steven Robert Rutherford September 19, 1988 – January 12, 1994
Three classes from completing his engineering degree at Old Dominion University, Steven Rutherford was unable to ignore the call any longer. He joined the Newport News Police Department as an Auxiliary Officer and 17 months later, he became a full-time patrolman. Officer Rutherford excelled in his chosen profession and earned the nickname “Pac Man” for his relentless pursuit of drug dealers. On January 12, 1994, Officer Rutherford was shot and killed while posing as a pizza deliveryman in an undercover operation to stop a string of pizza delivery robberies. He was just 28 years old.
Larry Douglas Bland January 1, 1991 – May 13, 1994
So strong was Officer Larry Bland’s sense of civic duty that he served 17 years as an unpaid Auxiliary Officer in Hampton, Gloucester and Newport News before joining the Department full time. He lived his life by the motto, “In order to have a friend, you must be one.” Held in high esteem by Department and community members, Officer Bland devoted generous amounts of time to the Sunshine Foundation for terminally ill children. At the age of 48, Officer Bland was shot and killed by a suspect he had placed in the back of his patrol car during a traffic stop.