A modest-sized crowd of law enforcement officials and the public gathered just before 11 a.m. today at Anniston’s Centennial Memorial Park in remembrance of Justin Sollohub, the Anniston police officer killed a year ago while on patrol.
“We just wanted to do something to remember him,” said Anniston police Capt. Shane Denham, who quickly put together the ceremony this week. “We couldn’t let the day go by without letting everyone know he wasn’t forgotten.”
Beginning at the Anniston Police Department’s headquarters on Gurnee Avenue, the department’s honor guard delivered a wreath bearing Sollohub’s name to the park on Quintard Avenue, resting the piece next to a monument to Sollohub placed last year. An announcement from the Fire Station called for a moment of silence, almost exactly one year to the minute after Sollohub was shot.
After the moment of silence, one by one, police officers, public officials and friends and family walked up to the monument to pay their own private respects to Sollohub. Two women, Amanda Wall and Kimberly Rueger, friends of Sollohub’s from high school and college, knelt next to the stone before placing their hands atop the monument, then walking away in tears. Both women recalled being at work at the Fort McClellan Credit Union near where the shooting occurred when they heard an officer had been killed.
“I left straight from work to be there and everything was just so surreal,” Rueger said. “We knew what was going on, but no one would tell us who it was. We we’re just hoping it wasn’t Justin.”
But even through her tears, Wall couldn’t help but smile when she recalled Sollohub’s personality and his infectious way of making everyone around him brighten up.
“He was always smiling,” she said. “Always.
“He made you believe there was hope,” Rueger said. “He was the life of everything.”
Denham said Friday he couldn’t believe a year had gone by. He said he likes to think there were some positive aspects of the day, most notably how the community and local agencies came together to help each other out.
“It didn’t feel like this was just an Anniston thing,” he said. “It was like a state thing.”
But there are other memories of that day that he wishes he could shake that still haunt him, including being one of the first on the scene after the shooting.
“When I go by there, I still see him there in my mind,” Denham said. “It’s that negative image burned into me.”
When asked what he most remembered about that day one year ago, Anniston police Chief Layton McGrady’s answer was more succinct and direct.
“Things I don’t want to remember,” he said.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.