SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – The Sedgwick County Fire Chief has apologized to his staff after forcing them to remove memorial stickers from some of the department’s trucks.
Fire Chief Tavis Leake sent an email to staff members on Monday in reference to the removal of “Bubba” stickers. The stickers were placed on several fire trucks in 2007 after firefighter Bryon Johnson was killed in the line of duty. In the email, Chief Leake said in part:
I take full responsibility for this action. Taking down the stickers was never meant to offend Bryon’s memory or his family. I apologize to anyone who was offended by my actions. The intention is to have a sticker that includes all of our fallen members.”
Chief Leake spoke with KSN on Wednesday about the matter. He said the stickers on the trucks were not authorized by his administration. He said the removal directive was not out of malice.
“The removal and replacement of the sticker was to be inclusive to all of the fallen firefighters, not just one fallen member, but all of them, to be inclusive to the Lloyd family, the Colton family and the Johnson family,” said Fire Chief Leake. “There was no disrespect intended. It was simply to honor all of our members and that’s what we did.”
Chief Leake said he and his team are now in the process of creating a memorial sticker honoring all three Sedgwick County fallen firefighters. The sticker will include all of the men’s last names and the words, never forgotten.
KSN reached out to Bryon Johnson’s widow, Ariana Davis, about the removal and replacement of the memorial stickers. Davis said Leake did not reach out to her about the change in policy.
“In my honest opinion if he is truly sorry for his actions, it would be appropriate to reach out to me or Bryon’s children. Because what transpired was deeply offensive. It was hurtful,” said Davis. “If he wants to apologize, he can look Bryon’s son in the eye and do it.”
When the removal directive originally came down, Davis told KSN she was disgusted by the situation.
“That’s like saying to me or to his children or to these guys it’s not important anymore, but it is important,” Davis said. “You lose a spouse, you don’t want them forgotten, but we are talking about somebody that gave their life protecting you and me and our community and our belongings and you don’t want that sacrifice forgotten, ever.”
Chief Leake said he is still working on the memorial sticker policy, particularly how many stickers will be allowed on the trucks and where they will be placed.
Many firefighters have “Bubba” stickers on their helmets. Chief Leake said the helmet stickers are allowed to stay.