A somber day for the Broward Sheriff's Office as it remembers its fallen heroes.
A memorial service taking place Thursday morning to honor four former Broward Law Enforcement Officers and Two Fire Rescue personnel.
It begins at 10:30am at the Public Safety Building along 2601 W. Broward Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale.
See below for a list of those who will be honored.
Deputy Joseph Conte joined the Broward Sheriff’s Office in 1976. On July 11, 1979, while escorting prisoners from jail to a medical office in Fort Lauderdale, Deputy Conte was killed in the line of duty. Inmate Gary Eaton had planned an escape by enlisting a girlfriend to hire a gunman. As Deputy Conte led Eaton from a detention van to the doctor's office, he was ambushed and killed by the gunman. His killer was convicted of second degree murder and aiding an escape. Eaton was convicted of first degree murder and attempted escape and is sentenced to life in prison. Eaton's girlfriend was also convicted of second degree murder and served 33 years in prison before her release in 2012.In May 1999, Broward County named a new inmate housing facility in his honor.
On April 6, 2003, Deputy Philip Billings was shot and killed at age 25 while working an off-duty security detail at a car dealership on North Federal Highway in Pompano Beach. An unprecedented $100,000 reward fund was established for information leading to the arrest of his killer, and the two men suspected in the killing were found dead four days later in a murder-suicide. Deputy Billings was born in La Paz, Bolivia into a missionary family. He was a graduate of Palm Beach Atlantic College and served as a counselor and mentor to troubled children in Florida, Missouri and Oregon prior to joining BSO.
Driver/Engineer Michael Douthitt, a 23- year veteran, began his career with then Broward County EMS in 1984 as a paramedic. During his time of service he was acting battalion chief throughout the county, supervising paramedic crews. In the early 90’s, Broward County EMS merged with Broward County Fire and in 2003, merged with the Broward Sheriff’s Office Fire Rescue. Throughout his career, Douthitt received numerous letters commending his services from residents and visitors to Broward County. On July 2, 2007, during “A” Shift, he responded to a fire at a mobile home in Pembroke Park. Shortly, after returning to the station Douthitt felt ill, went home and was subsequently hospitalized after suffering from a first-degree heart block. After spending two days in the cardiac unit, Douthitt was released from the hospital. On July 13, 2007, while having lunch with his wife, Ruth, Douthitt went into cardiac arrest and died.
Lieutenant Rick Scorgie joined the Cooper City Fire Department in 1986, after serving as a volunteer firefighter with the Coral Springs Fire Department. A few years later, he became a state certified paramedic and then a state certified fire instructor. In the early 1990’s, Scorgie joined the South Florida Urban Search and Rescue Task Force as a rescue squad team member and technical search specialist and promoted to manager. He deployed on almost every task force deployment, including deployments to Papua, New Guinea in 1998 and to New York on September 11, 2001. After that deployment, he became sick and fought pneumonia four times. On May 27, 2005, at the age of 39, Lt. Scorgie died in his sleep.
Officer James T. Thomas served with the Dania Beach Police Department, now part of BSO’s jurisdiction. On April 19, 1977, he was waiting outside the Little General convenience store on Griffin Road near State Road 7 for his brother-in-law, the store’s night clerk. He encountered two would-be robbers, and one fired a single, fatal shot at the 27-year-old, off-duty officer. The murder went unsolved for five years until 1982, when members of the Outlaw motorcycle gang were implicated through fingerprints and eye-witness identification. Thomas is remembered as a good, young officer who always had a smile on his face.
On July 29, 1990, Officer Scott Winters and his K-9 partner, Baron, were removed from an off-duty detail when calls to the police department came in about a young woman from Pompano Beach that was raped and beaten. Officer Winters and Baron attempted to track the suspect’s escape path and eventually located the suspect. During a violent struggle, Officer Winters was shot and killed with his own weapon. The suspect was apprehended and sentenced to death. Officer Winters died as he had lived, serving his fellow human beings and trying to make this world a safer place to live. During the service, Sheriff Scott Israel and others will say a few words in remembrance of the fallen heroes. Savannah Maddison will sing the national anthem.