Since 1978, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office has suffered three tragic losses.
The three heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect their community were honored at a remembrance ceremony Thursday at the Fallen Deputies Memorial at the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputy Sheriff Lonnie Coburn was shot and killed on February 21, 1978 when he confronted two rape and murder suspects who took control of his service weapon and shot him twice.
Captain Scott Michael Bierwiler was killed in an automobile accident in 2009 when his sheriff’s cruiser was struck head-on by a teen driver going the wrong way on Powell Road.
Deputy Sheriff John Charles Mecklenburg was killed after a high-speed chase in Pasco County during in 2011.
The second annual ceremony was originally planned to commence outside in front of the bronze statue of a child consoling a mourning deputy, a commemoration that immortalizes the three fallen heroes, their names engraved into the stone.
But rain forced them to move indoors where Sheriff Al Nienhuis spoke to a room filled with family members, friends and community mourners who came to remember, and show respect for their unforgotten heroes.
Lonnie Coburn’s family stood together for a picture in front of the podium which was draped with a flowered wreath in memory of the three men. Coburn’s mother, Francis Griffin, 81, said the ceremony was nice. Her family traveled from Tampa to attend.
Any effort to keep her son’s memory alive was a reason to smile, she said.
“This is important,” she said, “because he was important for all of his life.”