Fallen Penitentiary Lieutenant Recognized at Medal of Honor Ceremony
May 13, 2016
OLYMPIA — Leassa Rentz traveled more than 160 miles last week to honor a grandfather who died 45 years ago, after being assaulted by a prison inmate.
Rentz said she doesn't have many memories of her grandfather, Lt. William Warfield, but one of her favorites is fishing and camping with him in the woods as a young girl. She was only 7 years old when Warfield suffered a heart attack in 1970, after an inmate he was trying to restrain kicked him in the chest.
Rentz, along with Warfield's 83-year-old son-in-law, Glenn Moore, traveled from Sheridan, Oregon to Olympia on May 6 to accept a Medal of Honor awarded during a ceremony at the Law Enforcement Memorial on the State's Capitol Campus.
"It's very important to my entire family to have him honored," Rentz, now 53, said. "We appreciate everybody's work to recognize him."
Each year, the Behind the Badge Foundation and Attorney General's Medal of Honor Committee commemorates law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty in the state of Washington. The foundation also maintains the Law Enforcement Memorial.
In 2009, Mike Severance, a retired Seattle police officer, discovered several law enforcement officers in Washington had never been nominated for the Medal of Honor. So he nominated them. Warfield is one of 12 law enforcement officers who were recognized at the event.
Department of Corrections Assistant Secretary of Prisons, Stephen Sinclair, said the ceremony is a way to remember and celebrate the lives of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. "In our business, we work behind walls and the heroic acts … aren't always seen," he said. "Whenever we have the opportunity to bring it to light and honor them, it honors us all."
Speakers included Chaplain Christy Dunn of the Duvall police and fire departments, Det. Meg DiBucci from the Everett police department, Sgt. Brian Johnston of the Monroe police department, Chaplain Charles Scoma of the Seattle police department and Kit Ford, executive director of the Behind the Badge Foundation.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson read names of the fallen officers and assisted with presenting the medals to family members. Gov. Jay Inslee and honor guard members laid a colorful floral wreath at the base of the stage.
Inslee also issued a proclamation honoring law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty. He said the ceremony was especially important to him because his cousin, Deputy Mark Brown of the King County Sheriff's Office died in the line of duty in 1999 and is recognized on the memorial.
"Today we thank them, honor them and stand with them," Inslee said. "Their names will not be forgotten."
A total of 308 names are on the Law Enforcement Memorial. Six are Washington Corrections officers. In addition to Warfield they are:
- Jayme Biendl, who was murdered by an offender at the Monroe Correctional Complex in Snohomish County in 2011.
- Sgt. William Cross, who died at the Washington State Penitentiary in 1979 after inmates attacked him while he was assisting another officer, searching another inmate for weapons.
- Lt. Roger Sanders, who died in 1978 from injuries he sustained in a pipe bomb explosion at the penitentiary.
- Herbert Briggs, who died in 1934 after being held hostage and killed by inmates during an escape attempt at the penitentiary.
- Community Corrections Officer Michael Erdhal, who died during an arson at his home in 1985.