Candlelight vigil honors fallen police officers

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Thousands of police officers from across the country and the world gathered on the National Mall Saturday night for a candlelight vigil to honor the officers whose names were added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

The memorial has the names of officers who have been killed in the line of duty.

This year, 394 names were added to the wall, including 143 officers who died in 2016. Two of the latter were from the Washington Metropolitan Area: Prince George's County Police Department Ofc. Jacai Colson and Prince William County Police Department Ofc. Ashley Guindon.

The name of each officer added to the wall was read aloud at the vigil.

Prior to the service, many officers were paying respects to their fallen comrades at the memorial.

"It's a very poignant event and very proud to be here and be part of it," said Sgt. Jon O'Donoghue with London's Metropolitan Police Service. He said for the past five or so years, members from his department and around the United Kingdom have established a makeshift memorial in the southwest corner. Underneath one of the lions, they taped the pictures of officers who have died in the U.K., Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. "We're obviously here this year to honour Keith Palmer, who died at the Houses of Parliament just recently."

The vigil marked the beginning of National Police Week in the United States, which runs from May 15-21. May 15 is Peace Officers Memorial Day.

Several events were held ahead of the vigil, including the Police Unity Tour which arrived on Friday. Officers rode from New Jersey to Washington, D.C. to raise money for the memorial and museum, the latter of which is currently under construction.

"I was told that it was going to be a very powerful and emotional experience," said Det. Samuel Arnold, with the Los Angeles Police Department, who took part in the ride. "I've seen a lot, unfortunately, in my line of work and I thought I was going to be able to deal with it and it was more than I expected."

Each officer taking part in the ride wore the name of a fallen officer.

"You don't understand what the family members go through, when you arrive on the day and they're all out here and they're holding up photos of their family members saying they're not forgotten. And they're not. That's why we do it every single year," added Arnold. He rode with a bracelet bearing the names of Lesley Zerebny and Jose “Gil” Vega, two Palm Springs Police officers killed on October 8, 2016.

Arnold also carried a pamphlet dedicated to Robert Cottle, an LAPD officer who was killed while serving with the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

"And there's more officers than I can ever attempt to remember their names, but their memories are still with us," added Arnold.

A list of the National Police Week events can be found here.

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