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March 16, 2011

Lifelong friendship and dedication to law enforcement leads to endowed ULM scholarship

Lifelong friends Dennis Wall and J.R. Searcy shared many moments together, but perhaps one of the most important bonds they shared was their love of law enforcement.

On March 4, 2010, Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Deputy Cpl. Clovis Wayne "J.R." Searcy paid the ultimate price for that love when he and a rookie officer confronted a lone suspect who opened fire, striking Searcy twice just an inch above his protective vest and fatally wounding him.

One year later, Wall is honoring his close friend in the best way he knows how – through the establishment of an endowed scholarship funded in Searcy's memory.

A $43,479.18 check for the "Corporal J. R. Searcy Memorial Scholarship" fund was presented earlier this month in conjunction with the unveiling and statue dedication to Searcy in front of the new Ouachita Parish Branch library named in his honor.

Of the new endowed scholarship, ULM President Bruno said, "What greater tribute than a memorial that will last well into the future and ensure a student is trained, in his memory, to protect our community."

Wall is a 2001 graduate of the criminal justice program at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and veteran officer for the Monroe Police Department.

He also happens to be the primary promoter of the enormously successful "XTREME Battle of the Badges" annual fundraising competition between local police and fire departments; it didn't take long for Wall to decide that this year's proceeds from the event would be diverted from usual areas of support to establish the endowed scholarship.

"This year is special. We put everything into this one scholarship and I thought it fitting to tie it all in at one ceremony," said Wall. "I was in a position to do something, and I wanted to do it in a way that people remember J.R. forever."

This year's donations doubled in size compared to the previous year, according to Wall. "I don't know if it was because people knew it was for J.R. or if it was the raffle for the Harley Davidson motorcycle, but we're certainly happy with the amount raise and we just hope to continue to see it grow," he said.

Wall joined Kay Guirlando, Searcy's mother, to meet with Criminal Justice Department Head Dr. Rob Hanser at ULM to discuss the scholarship criteria earlier this week.

They stipulated that the student receiving the scholarship be from Ouachita Parish and meet minimum grade point average requirements as set by the department.

"We wanted it to be as open as possible," said Wall, who worked part-time during his college years for the West Monroe Police Department. "This scholarship is to help someone who really wants to earn a criminal justice degree."

"We are very grateful for the donation and, more importantly, we are very grateful and appreciative of the sacrifice that J.R. Searcy made for the community," said Hanser. "I will make it a personal effort to ensure that the money is used in a manner that honors that sacrifice."

"Today is the day he got shot – seeing the things we've done so far, the highlights – it makes me smile that we've done something for him," said Wall, just hours before the library dedication and check presentation on March 4. "I'll be happy and sad at the same time."

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