Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches

Sergeant Mike Lane

May 18 2005

Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to honor Sergeant Mike Lane, a lifelong Texan, member of the Beaumont Police Department for 33 years. Each day a person who wears the badge walks the thin blue line between life and death. Their spouses wonder when their police officer mate reports for duty if that person will return safely home. Last year, 156 of them did not return home to their families. Texas, along with California, each led the Nation last year with 14 police officers killed in the line of duty. Sergeant Mike Lane was one of them.

Mike Lane graduated from Beaumont High School in 1969 and received his pilot's license even prior to high school graduation at the young age of 17. He attended Lamar Tech, now Lamar University, until he decided to answer the call of law enforcement. In 1972, Sergeant Lane joined the Beaumont Police Department where his lengthy legacy began. He spent 32 years with the same police department in southeast Texas, fighting crime, helping people.

A son of a retired Air Force member, Mike Lane was raised in airplane hangars all over the world from Japan to the United States. He had the passion of the Wright brothers for flying. He had aviation in his Texas blood. In the mid-80s, the Beaumont Police Department seized a plane used to smuggle drugs from Belize to Texas. After acquiring the plane, they began using it for local missions. Sergeant Lane immediately jumped at the chance to get in the pilot's seat for the citizens of Jefferson County. He was one of the two designated pilots for the Beaumont Police Department.

Just as policemen are drawn together by common goals, pilots seem to congregate together as well. His partner in the sky was another pilot in the police department, Deputy Chief Weldon Dunlap. Deputy Chief Dunlap recalls, ``Mike had an amazing wealth of knowledge about aircraft. He literally ate, drank, and slept airplanes.''

When the Army gave the Beaumont Police Department two helicopters, it was only natural that Lane would be heavily involved in the helicopter operations that would come up. Any time there was a mission or training, Lane was the first in line to take part in it.

On the evening of September 15, 2004, the neighboring Port Arthur Police Department reported a boat fire on Sabine Lake. Lane was one of two pilots who was called to duty for the search and rescue mission that took place that moonless night, a night that Deputy Chief Dunlap recalled was extra dark. During the flight, Lane was tasked with shining the spotlight on the large, murky, marshy Sabine Lake near the Texas-Louisiana border while the other officer maneuvered the helicopter through the intense, immense darkness that surrounded them.

Flying a mere 6 feet above the lake in an effort to get closer and look for people or debris in the water, Sergeant Lane was once again fulfilling his oath to protect and serve the people.

Sergeant Lane and crew made last contact shortly after 10:30 p.m. and after that, there was only silence, silence in the stillness of the damp, dark, dreary night. A helicopter search team spotted the wreckage almost 4 hours later at 2 o'clock in the morning. Jefferson County Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy Battenfield, who was piloting the helicopter, survived the crash with minor injuries; but in the line of duty, doing what he loved and what he did best at the age of 54, Sergeant Mike Lane lost his life in the stillness of that September night.

Hundreds of law enforcement members from across Texas and Louisiana traveled to South Park Baptist Church in Beaumont to pay their respects to a unique and talented officer and pilot that will never be replaced. He was laid to rest in the same church where he served as a deacon and a mentor to kids.

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in the Fraternal Order of Police's 24th annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service here on the Capitol grounds to remembe