Memorial run honours former Port McNeill officer killed by drunk driver

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Memorial run honours former Port McNeill officer killed by drunk driver

By Trish Weatherall

Published in the North Island Eagle, April 19, 2019

Constable Sarah Beckett was honoured in Port McNeill Saturday, April 13, as 97 North Islanders participated in a virtual run in the rain on the Rotary Trail as part of the first Sarah Beckett Memorial Run in Langford. The 32-year-old RCMP constable was killed in the line of duty by an impaired driver in April 2016 in Langford. Beckett’s first post at age 21 was in Port McNeill between 2005 to 2009, where she is still fondly remembered by the community.

“Rain or shine, if Port McNeill is going to show respect for someone it doesn’t matter what the weather is doing,” said Brenda Coe, a former office manager at the Port McNeill RCMP office who was close to Beckett.

“Sarah was a beautiful, full of life individual,” said Coe. “She loved being around people and her dog Maximus. She was a professional — she listened to people and showed them that she cared yet she knew that her feelings couldn’t get in the way of her job, a job that she loved doing. Port McNeill was what I called was Sarah’s first RCMP home — coming to us as a recruit from the RCMP depot in Saskatchewan she fit right in. Sarah always made us laugh in the office. I was like her Port McNeill mom, we always had a place at our table for her.”

Coe walked the 5km route with her daughter Cheryl, who was also Beckett’s friend. “Three uniformed RCMP officers were escorts, and the ambulance and fire department showed their support out alongside the highway handing out water to the runners and walkers. Lights flashing and cheering everyone on. We did something to remember a special lady in all of our lives and show her that we are all here to support Brad, Lucas and Emmitt – three very important men in her life.”

The main Langford Memoral run had more than 500 participants, including Beckett’s husband Brad Aschenbrenner their two boys, five-year-old Emmitt and eight-year-old Lucas.

“3 weeks ago, the boys and I walked the course. They understand what it’s about. They see posters all over with their mother’s picture on it. I always instill what a special mother she was to them and how important her job as an RCMP officer was.”

“Sarah had a talent for reaching out and connecting with people. She was the one who could talk to an inebriated 12-year-old with a troubled history and reach out to the parents to find the best solution. She’s the one who could get kids who locked themselves in a room in a youth facility to open the door.”

He doesn’t have final numbers yet, but besides the 500 participants on the Langford run, more than 400 people participated virtually from around the world including BC locations Port McNeill, Gold River, Kelowna, and Nelson; the American states of Idaho, Oregan, Washington, Nevada, California; and even  Germany and Saudi Arabia.

He and the organizing committee worked on planning the Langford run for the past 18 months. In Port McNeill, RCMP Officer Marcus Croy led the local organized virtual run committee, which included Janine Croy, Pita Rosback, Kathy Martin, and Allan Martin.

“I’m so pleased with the turnout,” said Officer Croy. “What started as a planned group run at the RCMP detachment went far beyond my expectations.  Brad and the organizers didn’t hesitate in supporting our efforts up here.” 

With 59 registered participants prior to the run, another 38 turned out, and the group raised about $3500.

“It’s really heartwarming. Everyone has been touched by this and we thank everyone for the support,” said Aschenbrenner. “So many first responders participated, in uniform, firefighters, EMTs, and RCMP officers. This was a way for everyone to come together to reminisce. There is not enough credit given to first responders. They put their lives on the line every day, sometimes paying the ultimate sacrifice that Sarah paid.”

Officer’s widow urges people to write to MPs

While the memorial run was a way to recognize and honour his wife’s memory, Aschenbrenner says it’s also an opportunity to raise awareness about the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol and prompt people to take action.

“We are living in an outdated judicial system. He killed a police officer in the line of duty and only received a four-year sentence. He was a repeat offender and he had .278 alcohol content in his blood [3.5 times the legal limit]. It is heart breaking and sickening.”

“There are more deaths from drinking and driving than from gun violence, yet people are more concerned about removing guns than about having stronger sentencing. We need mandatory minimum sentencing if we want to deter people from drinking and driving. We have to start somewhere, so I encourage people to write to their MP and demand more severe penalties for alcohol-related driving offences.”

All funds raised from the run will go toward the Constable Sarah Beckett Memorial scholarship sponsored by the Capital Regional District Traffic Safety Commission for post secondary education in criminology.

Land has also been dedicated in Langford for a Sarah Beckett Memorial Playground and the local Rotary Club is raising funds for the equipment.  

“It’s really symbolic for us. We have a photo of Sarah and the boys at a playground on our last family vacation. After we had kids, she was still a great officer but she really made the family the priority.”  

Aschenbrenner and his sons keep a memory box, a gift that he originally gave to Beckett, and they contribute memorable items and cards to it on special occasions like Mothers day, birthdays, and Christmas. They also plant something in the garden for each occasion.

“My boys and I always come together to do something special for her, to recognize and honour her.”

Brenda Coe and Officer Marcus Croy at the Port McNeill Sarah Beckett Memorial Run.

Photo by Allan Martin

RCMP Constable Leo Corcoran runs through finish line tape held by Sophia VonSchilling and Tessa Russell at the Port McNeill virtual Sarah Beckett Memorial Run Saturday, April 13th.

Photo by Allan Martin. 

Brad Aschenbrenner, Constable Sarah Beckett’s husband, with sons Emmitt and Lucas receive their medals at the Langford official Sarah Beckett Memorial Run.

Photo by Stephon Mullett.