With tears and fond memories, the Simpson community joined the families, fellow officers and friends of two police officers who were killed in the line of duty almost a year ago.
The memorial service, moved to the Matthew Simpson Room because of rainy conditions outside, featured the dedication of a bench and rock that honors the lives of Sgt. Anthony “Tony” Beminio of the Des Moines Police Department and Officer Justin Martin of the Urbandale Police Department.
Beminio, 38, and Martin, 24, were ambushed and killed within minutes of each other on Nov. 2. Both were graduates of Simpson – Beminio in 2001, Martin in 2015.
Sixty or more uniformed officers, representing police departments in Indianola, Urbandale and Des Moines as well as the Iowa State Patrol, stood for the service. Family members of both officers also attended.
“We spend a great deal of time at Simpson College talking about integrity and service,” Simpson President Jay Simmons said. “These two gentlemen exemplified that in ways that none of us would ever want them to have to exemplify in the way that they did.
“They touched the lives of many. They made a significant impact on our communities and our society. The tragic occurrence that took these two individuals from us is also a reminder of the importance of what they did and their dedication.”
Carolyn Dallinger, Department Chair of Sociology and Criminal Justice, said Beminio and Martin had much in common.
“Both Tony and Justin had great strength of character and loved what they did,” she said. “They were both acknowledged as leaders. They both were great athletes in high school and in college. Both played football. They were great teammates. They both had a deep desire to help others and each one of them had a dream to become a police officer. They were genuinely kind people.”
Beminio was a resource officer at Roosevelt and East high schools in Des Moines, “and it was said that Tony always had a smile on his face for the kids at those schools,” Dallinger said.
As for Martin, he was “caring, funny, hardworking and optimistic.”
His voice breaking, Martin’s father, Randy, told the group his son “was one of the few people who was doing what he wanted to do. Even in middle school, he wanted to be in law enforcement. That was his goal.”
As a junior in high school, “we visited Simpson College. He said this is where I want to go. He never wavered from that…. Simpson, I thank you for educating him and preparing him for life.”
Martin said Justin had the same affection for the Urbandale Police Department. “He felt he was part of a team,” he said.
Chief Ross McCarty of the Urbandale Police Department and Sgt. Jeremy Sprague of the Des Moines Police Department also spoke.
“As inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Memorial, it’s not how these officers died that made them heroes,” McCarty said. “It’s how they lived.”
Within hours after learning of the officers’ deaths, Casey’s General Stores Inc. donated $50,000 to establish two scholarship funds at Simpson in their honor.
President Simmons announced the first winners of the scholarships: Brandee Kinter received the Anthony Beminio Memorial Scholarship, while Joe McNally was awarded the Justin Martin Memorial Scholarship.
“The establishment of these scholarships and the memorials are just a very small token to help honor and preserve the memory of these two officers who were willing to sacrifice everything to keep our communities safe,” said LeAnne Krell, assistant general counsel for Casey’s.
Simpson Chaplain Mara Bailey said the memorial bench and rock outside of Wallace Hall will provide “the opportunity to ground ourselves in the memory of those we love and those that we miss. But we will also find a place to ground ourselves in the potential for future memories, and the potential to find new hope in the days yet to come.”
As current and future students and staff sit and reflect, she said, “it will give us the opportunity to continue to live in the ideals that both of these men expressed so deeply, through their life, their work and their commitment.”
The families of both officers expressed appreciation for the service.
“I’m thankful for everything that people had to say, as well as what the school has done,” said Zoe Beminio, Anthony’s widow. “I appreciate them honoring my husband.”
Randy Martin said, “This is just fantastic that they could put this together and work everybody’s schedule out.”
As the ceremony ended, several officers headed outside to see the bench and read the inscription on the memorial rock. They stood as a light drizzly rain fell, but they appeared too lost in their thoughts and memories to notice or care.