Friday’s tournament at StoneRidge was about more than golf.
Before Great Bend Mayor Mike Allison fired the shotgun start for 36 teams, golfers heard the story of Sgt. David Enzbrenner, an Atchison police officer who was killed in the line of duty on Dec. 9, 2011. The golf tournament supports the annual Law Enforcement Valor Awards program, recognizing acts of merit, bravery or heroism. The highest award is the one given posthumously, for officers who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The slain officer has been recognized many times at the state and national level. He was the only Kansas police officer to lose his life in the line of duty in 2011, and one of 173 nationwide.
Last December Sgt. Enzbrenner was assisting city code enforcement officers as they removed scrap metal from a residential property. A crowd of onlookers gathered, but as the job wrapped up Enzbrenner told other officers they could leave, Atchison Police Chief Mike Wilson told the group in Great Bend Friday. Suddenly, a 25-year-old onlooker walked behind Enzbrenner and shot him. A moment later, the man shot himself.
Sgt. Enzbrenner’s widow Kerri and his parents John and Betty Enzbrenner traveled to Great Bend for Friday’s event. Kerri and Betty were each presented a rose by Andover Police Chief Mike Keller, president of the Kansas Association of Chief of Police. Great Bend High School’s Madrigals sang “The Star Spangled Banner” a capella.
Kerri Enzbrenner wore a T-shirt with a photo of her late husband, who was 46 years old, and the words, “Focus, and let’s have fun.” It’s something he said often to their three daughters when he coached sports, she said.
Chief Wilson said another thing Enzbrenner was known to say during his 24 years with the APD was, “It’s a beautiful day.” Sometimes police work isn’t pleasant, but Enzbrenner always had a positive attitude, he said.
“Our tragedy began on Dec. 9,” Wilson said. “Gatherings like this are what get us through. Law enforcement is a unique brotherhood. Not only are we a brotherhood, we’re a family.”
In the northeast Kansas city of Atchison, a community with a population of 10,500, that is especially true, Wilson said. In the days that followed Enzbrenner’s death, other law enforcement agencies stepped in and took over the police department’s calls and other duties.
The man who shot Sgt. Enzbrenner didn’t have a clear reason. On Dec. 9, 2011, he was determined to kill an officer, Keller said. If others had stayed at the scene, they might have died, too.
Kerri Enzbrenner said she always tries to find the reason for bad things, but her husband would tell her some things defy logic. “He used to say, ‘Kerri, you’re not going to understand why these things happen.’ All I know is, the good needs to outweigh the evil.
“It’s good we do things like this,” she told those there to honor her husband Friday. “You just have to keep going. You have to remind yourself, “It’s a beautiful day.’”
The final tournament
Great Bend Police Chief Dean Akings, who has organized the golf tournament for the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police for 19 years, said this is the last year he’ll be in charge of the fundraiser. Next year it will move to another city, probably somewhere around Wichita.
The Chiefs of Police association holds its Valor Awards banquet at Wichita in May, but money raised at the golf tournament pays for the awards, and for officers and their families to attend, Keller said. Over the years, the event has raised over $100,000.
“We always have great support,” Akings said, from golfers and from Great Bend. “Mayor Allison has been to every one of these. Some teams come year after year.”
Keller said the Chief of Police Association was struggling to fund the Valor Awards program when Akings started the tournament. “If it were not for Chief Akings, this golf tournament would not be what it is today,” he said.