By JB Clark
TUPELO – The Stauffer and Maher families were all smiles at the Tupelo Police Athletic League when members of the Tupelo and law enforcement communities presented them with much needed vacations.
Beth Stauffer, wife of fallen Tupelo Police Sgt. Gale Stauffer, was given a check to be used to take her family out of town for a time of rest and relaxation. She said much of the money will be used to take the family to Law Enforcement Week in Washington, D.C., this spring.
“I know it will be emotional, but Gale had never been and wanted to go. He’ll be doing that through us,” she said. Sgt. Stauffer will be part of the fallen officer memorial during National Police Week, May 10-17, in D.C.
Tupelo Police Officer Joseph Maher, who was injured by a gunshot to the head during the shootout that took Stauffer’s life Dec. 23, was presented with a duck hunting trip to Habitat Flats in Missouri as well as top-of-the-line gear for his hunt.
“Maher is a huge duck hunter, and we’d get to talking about it at work,” said Sgt. Michael Russell of the Police Athletic League. “We knew his duck season was gone, and he had a long road of recovery ahead of him, so this idea started as not only something for him to look forward to but work toward. A goal at the end of his rehab.”
Maher said he is excited about the trip and new gear, which included a Yeti cooler and Benelli shotgun.
“I’m ready to go today if I could,” Maher said. “It’s going to be nice, that’s for sure. I’m ready for it.”
The trip is scheduled for November.
Both Maher and Beth Stauffer said they have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of community support.
“It’s really overwhelming how the community has come together and supported me and my family,” Maher said. “It’s truly amazing how good people have been to us.”
Stauffer echoed Maher, adding, “It makes me feel connected to people I don’t even know, and that has been overwhelming for me because I have so many people who just want to hug me and be close to me.”
Russell set an initial fundraising goal of $6,000 for the vacation fund and didn’t say how much was raised in the end, but that the total quickly surpassed the initial goal.
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton thanked the law enforcement community for their support of the community and affected families during this tough time.
“In my career I’ve had the opportunity to get to know and become friends with many in our law enforcement community, but it was not until the terrible tragedy on Dec. 23 that I had a true appreciation for the bond and bortherhood of law enforcement,” he said. “I was blown away by the way you rallied together around Officer Maher and Sgt. Stauffer’s family.”
Sgt. Stauffer and Maher responded to a bank robbery on South Gloster Street on Dec. 23. When they arrived, they were met by the suspect, who gunned the officers down in traffic while the officers attempted to keep civilians out of the line of fire. The suspect was killed in a similar shooting later that week near Phoenix.