By ARDEN BASTIA It was no coincidence that the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston was stop number 63 for the End of Watch Ride last Thursday. The stop was meant to honor the memory of late Lt. Russell Freeman, a corrections officer who wore
It was no coincidence that the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston was stop number 63 for the End of Watch Ride last Thursday.
The stop was meant to honor the memory of late Lt. Russell Freeman, a corrections officer who wore badge #1163 his entire career.
Freeman, of Warwick, began his career as an officer 30 years before, to the day. He lost his battle with COVID-19 in December, leaving behind three children, Stone, Ingrid and Quinn, and wife, Lisa.
Last Thursday, six motorcycles followed by a 41-foot, black-and-blue-paneled trailer rumbled into the prison parking lot. The words “Beyond the Call of Duty – Ride to Remember 2020” stretch the length of one side above 339 images of fallen law enforcement officers.
The End of Watch Ride began on May 28 in Yakima, Washington, and will cover 22,000 miles, stopping at 194 communities in 84 days to honor the lives of fallen law enforcement officers to keep their memories alive.
That’s what Ingrid Freeman is holding on to.
“I heard a quote that really stuck with me that’s given meaning to all this,” she shared during the event. “A person dies three times: the first is when their heart stops, the second is when their body is consigned to the grave, and the third is the last time their name is said. So something like this means that his name will live on for sure.”
About 100 coworkers, family members and friends gathered to pay tribute to Freeman and the other 338 law enforcement officers who died last year in the United States.
Founded by Jagrut Shah, a retired deputy sheriff, this is the second End of Watch ride the organization has done.
Before Shah retired in 2017, he had seen a number of line-of-duty deaths.
“It just weighed heavy on me,” he said. “I started doing these event locally, but then decided I want to do it nationally.”
Shah said he’s “humbled” by these events.
“When you look at our memorial, you’ll notice three factors,” he said. “One, is every officer has a God-given name. They’re not a number. Number two, every officer wore a uniform of one sort or another whether it was white, black, gray or green. And the third, which is most important, is every single one of these officers, God gave them one color and that’s red. They all bled red just like each and every one of you. There is no white, there is no black, there is no blue.”
Last year, the ride honored 146 fallen officers.
“We realize now that they are heroes, we turn and look at this beautiful memorial and say they did the ultimate sacrifice, but we tend to forget they were heroes before we realized,” Shah said.
Addressing the officers in attendance, Shah said, “Each and every one of you here today is a hero, and don’t allow anyone to take that away from you. You wear a beautiful uniform, do a civic job, you’re a servant serving this state by doing this job.”
Lt. Freeman served at the women’s facility of the ACI when he contracted COVID late last fall. His wife, who is also a corrections officer at medium security, also fell ill, but while Lisa got better, Russell continued to get worse. He was hospitalized and placed on a ventilator before passing due to complications.
“We’re so proud of him,” said his wife, Lisa Favino-Freeman. “This makes me feel so honored to know that people are doing this to remember my husband. This community makes me proud.”
To honor his memory, Freeman’s family established the nonprofit foundation Live Like Russ. Through the foundation, his family is committed to helping other families in need, especially those involved in law enforcement or affected by COVID. Beginning spring 2022, the organization plans to grant scholarships to recent high school graduates.
The organization is holding the first annual Live Like Russ golf tournament on Monday, Sept. 20, at the Cranston Country Club. The event, which sold out and is now waitlist only, aims to keep Freeman’s name alive while raising funds for the foundation.
The Freeman family has found other ways to honor Russ’s memory and spirit, like taking part in the 2021 Police Unity Tour in October. Ingrid will be participating in the 300-mile bike ride from New Jersey to Washington, D.C., in honor of her dad.
“I think the coolest thing about every single event that we’ve had like this, is the amount of people that come out from the community,” Ingrid shared. “Who he was, aside from being an officer, was a coach, so he has friends of my sister that he coached or my brother’s friend group who saw him as a dad. The people that pull together during a time like this, it’s just who he was.”