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Family of Ashland officer will receive benefits

The family of Ashland police Officer Malcus Williams, who died while on duty March 2, will receive cash and mortgage, medical and other benefits, thanks to state and federal fallen officer programs.

The Oregon Public Safety Memorial Fund unanimously voted Friday to give a one-time award of $25,000 to his wife, Ona, and daughters Savannah, Georgia and Brooklyn to handle present costs and expenses.

The fund also will provide additional benefits to cover future medical, dental, college and other such costs for all family members, plus mortgage assistance for a year, said Eriks Gabliks, director of the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, which administers the fund.

Gabliks said the family further will be aided by a one-time federal grant of at least $350,000, awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice and enabled by the Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act, which, according to govtrack.us, “ensures that a public safety officer who suffers a fatal heart attack or stroke while on duty shall be presumed to have died in the line of duty for purposes of public safety officer survivor benefits.”

“The federal grant is larger, and we don’t administer that,” Gabliks said. “Theirs takes nine to 12 months and is for immediate expenses, including college tuition, medical-dental, and what they don’t help with, we do.”

Williams suffered a “major medical event while on duty and on the scene of a call,” the Ashland Police Department said in a statement. He was taken to Providence Medford Medical Center, where efforts for more than 90 minutes failed to save him. Ashland police have declined to list the cause of death out of privacy concerns.

The family was awarded Oregon’s Law Enforcement Medal of Ultimate Sacrifice by the Governor’s Commission on the Law Enforcement Medal of Honor Friday during an emergency meeting. It goes to the family of a law enforcement officer who has died while performing his or her duties.

The bronze medal displays a police shield, sheriff’s star and state seal with gold ribbon. The inscription reads, "Awarded by a grateful state for the ultimate sacrifice by a law enforcement family.”

The federal Public Safety Officers' Benefit Program law says the grant is for the family of an officer whose death is the direct result of “line-of-duty heart attacks, strokes or vascular ruptures.” It also details higher education expenses, such as tuition, fees, books and housing at college.

In making the monetary awards, the state commission must determine Williams was involved in taking enforcement action and died on scene or en route, or dealing with it in some other manner, Gabliks said.

“He died at the scene of a domestic violence call, so that’s an enforcement action,” Gabliks said, adding that such enforcement action can include “stressors” before or after the event.

In making such money awards, Gabliks said the public sometimes complains that it seems like a lot of money, “but we’re very honest. It may seem like a lot initially, but there is one less person sitting at the dinner table. It’s honestly not (too much). They died in the line of duty.”

Money for the state fund comes from the Criminal Fines and Assessments Program, which draws money from traffic tickets, criminal citations and court fines, said Gabliks.

A celebration of life and memory for Williams will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 17, at the Ashland High School gym, with overflow crowd welcome to watch on TV at AHS's theater. The public is also invited to line the streets as a law enforcement procession makes its way to the high school. The family will be in the procession. More details will be released later, according to Ashland police.

Donations for the family can be made at OregonFallenBadge.com or at any U.S. Bank.

Williams was the 183rd law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty since the first was recorded in the 1880s. The list is at www.oregon.gov/DPSST/AT/pages/olememorial.aspx. Information about the Fund Board is at www.oregon.gov/DPSST/MF/pages/index.aspx.

— Reach Ashland freelance writer John Darling at jdarling@jeffnet.org.