EASTON — The law enforcement community and family members gathered Friday, June 7, at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Easton to honor and remember Maryland State Police Tfc. William P. Mills, Jr. who was killed in the line of duty 40 years ago on June 8, 1979.
Mills was 32. He served with MSP for 8 years and 11 months. He was a military veteran, and served in the United States Air Force in Vietnam.
On June 8, 1979, Mills responded to a Brookview trailer site in Dorchester County to investigate a reported domestic complaint. When he arrived, he saw a man was shot, and went to help. But then Mills was shot twice — the second time in the chest with a bullet from a high-powered rifle. He was flown to then Peninsula General Hospital in Salisbury and died.
“What an honor it is for me to be standing here, and honoring the legacy and sacrifice of Trooper First Class William P. Mills, Jr.,” MSP Capt. Prendi Garcia said. “Upon his arrival, all he wanted to do was help that man that was laying on his front yard. Not thinking of himself, he quickly exited his vehicle to render aid.
“One shot. He’s hit,” Garcia said. “Trooper Mills does not go down. He reaches for his assigned weapon to return fire. He is shot again, but this time with a high-powered rifle. Officer down.
“There is a member of the community that showed outstanding courage that day as well,” he said. “They jumped in (Mills’) car, uses the radio and calls for help. ‘Officer has been shot. Officer needs help. Get here now.’”
Mills was pronounced dead five minutes after he arrived at the hospital.
Garcia said he has asked himself about 100 times why he became a police officer. He said when he began his career, his attitude was cocky and wanting to be tough.
“What a fool I was back then,” he said. “Today, almost 17 years later, I can answer that question with one simple word — honor. When I started this speech, I said we are here to honor the legacy and sacrifice of Trooper First Class William P. Mills, Jr.
“The word honor means the highest respect,” he said. “It means great esteem. When you put your uniform on, did you put it on with honor? When you wear your uniform, do you wear it with honor, with the highest respect?
“You have to have the highest respect to do this job,” he said. “You have to have heart, sympathy, empathy and you have to have honor.”
Garcia wants all police officers to look to their left and look to their right, and make a promise to always have their back — just like how Tfc. Mills cared for the community.
“If you are here today, wear that uniform, make that commitment,” he said. “We can’t do this by ourselves. We need to win our communities back. We need to show them that we represent them. It’s about honor, ladies and gentlemen.”
Garcia said Mills’ great legacy continues today with new training developed for how to approach a domestic disturbance.
“Even though it was a tragedy that Trooper Mills died on June 8, 1979, I want you to know that we here today are alive because of him,” he said. “I want you to tell this story of Trooper Mills to one other person today. We cannot ever forget the legacy and sacrifice that he made.”
Shannon Mills was three years old when he dad died. She spoke Friday and thanked Maryland State Police for adopting her into the family.
“Thank you for everyone in attendance,” she said. “It is very humbling and heartwarming. Forty years has been a long time. For my Godfather, Mr. Vaughn Foreman, this man never missed a beat. He stepped up. He is with me for all of life’s moments.
“There is a lot of you here today that made me who I am, and steered me in the right direction,” she said. “I’m grateful for all of you, and for all of what you did.”
Shannon Mills ended with a quote from the late MSP Cpl. Barry Smith who died about two weeks ago on May 25.
“‘Wanting to be a trooper means you are willing to go longer harder and give more than anyone else,’” she said. “I appreciate him. I definitely miss (Smith) being here. He was a major part of my life as well. He never missed a beat either.”Follow Caroline/Dorchester Editor Dustin Holt on Twitter @Dustin_StarDem.