By Noah Alatza
The eighth annual Jake Laird Community Day and National Night Out will be held simultaneously 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 1. The day is sponsored by Hamilton County residents, Mike and Debbie Laird, Jake’s parents.
Officer Timothy “Jake” Laird was killed in a gun battle in August 2004 after responding to calls for backup on Indianapolis’ far southside. Laird served with the Indianapolis Police Dept. for nearly four-and-a-half years and was awarded the department’s Medal of Honor and Purple Heart. He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps for eight years. The day is usually recognized on the same day as National Night Out, the first Tuesday of August every year.
“We don’t have a specific day called Jake Laird Day. Several years ago my husband, Mike, and I wanted to assist the Westfield Police Dept. with their National Night Out event, with a donation from the foundation we established shortly after Jake was killed in the line of duty,” Debbie Laird said. “Among other programs, we want to see police officers reflected in the community in a positive manner. This event is a wonderful way for the community to be able to see an officer as a friend and not an adversary.”
Following the death of Jake, the Laird family established the Jake Laird Memorial Fund which in essence provides new equipment, programs and assistance with officer hardships. Debbie said she is doing what her son would have wanted his parents to do.
“Jake participated in National Night Out when he was a police officer for IPD (now Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Dept.). He particularly enjoyed the Community Day held in his precinct on the southside of Indianapolis,” she said. “Mike and I feel like we are doing exactly what Jake would have wanted us to do when we participate in these activities.”
Jake’s parents say their son was living the dream before being killed in the line of duty.
“Jake was blessed to be literally living his dream of being a police officer. He was happy and was looking forward to where his career was taking him,” Debbie said. “I was fortunate to talk with Jake the same evening he died and he talked about how pleased he was to have recently met several of his personal goals and was contemplating new ones.”
The event is organized by WPD and usually includes free hot dogs, popcorn, several activities including bounce houses, face painting, a balloon artist, a dunk tank, a rock climbing wall and a K9 demonstration. Officers also will showcase the department’s vehicles, equipment and programs.
“We want the public to get out and know about the safety in their neighborhoods, the sacrifices law enforcement makes every single day,” WPD Capt. Charles Hollowell said. “This is all about safety, a safe community and a safe environment.”
Hollowell said the crowd size grows every year.
“Our crowds have grown bigger and bigger each year, the community is starting to realize we are having our ‘Night Out’ right here in Westfield,” he said. “Working with the (Laird’s) to honor their son, along with building bonds and relationships, that is what we are really appreciative about.”
However, for the Laird’s, every year that passes is another heartfelt reminder of the real life dangers law enforcement face every day.
“Our family misses Jake more than words can say.” Laird said. “But we find comfort knowing Jake is in a better place and we will see him again one day.” The event is held at Quaker Park, 17501 Dartown Rd. Visit https://natw.org/ for more information about National Night Out.