By Debby Woodin
Officer Jefferson “Jeff” Taylor, who died after he was struck by lightning while helping in Joplin after the May 22 tornado, will be memorialized at the state Capitol.
He is one of nine late Missouri officers whose names will be placed Saturday on the Law Enforcement Memorial Wall overlooking the Missouri River as part of an annual statewide observance.
Taylor, 31, died June 3 of injuries he suffered May 23 at 32nd Street and Range Line Road, where he was standing in a parking lot after returning from a command post in the tornado zone. He had been a patrolman with the Riverside Police Department for six years.
The annual memorial observance will begin at 8 p.m. today with a candlelight vigil. Families of the officers will place memorial wreaths on the wall, and Gov. Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster will speak at a ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Joplin police Chief Lane Roberts said Taylor’s photograph is displayed on the local department’s Wall of Honor, and the city presented Taylor’s family with a Medal of Valor. The officer is commemorated on the city memorial to tornado victims in Cunningham Park. Taylor also is listed on a national memorial in Washington, D.C.
Roberts will pay tribute to Taylor at a speech he will give May 14 to the Concerns of Police Survivors organization during a meeting in Washington D.C. “I have done eight or nine presentations about the tornado, and in every one I take a moment to recognize Officer Taylor,” the chief said.
One of the two mobile home parks near the Joplin airport set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide temporary housing for displaced tornado survivors is named for Taylor.