Sgt Mike Holden, San Diego PD, and Bill Erfurth, Executive Producer of Heroes Behind the Badge confer between shots at the location where SDPD Officer Jeremy Henwood was gunned down in the middle of the day. Photo Dale Stockton
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While I was in Washington, D.C., for Police Week, I met a really interesting guy. Bill Erfurth, a retired Miami Dade lieutenant somehow morphed into a movie producer. His latest project, Heroes Behind the Badge, should be of great interest to anyone who has ever worn a badge or known someone who has.
Erfurth has teamed up with Wayne Derrick, an Academy-award-winning director who is no stranger to intense situations. During his film career, Derrick has lived with a cannibal tribe, been held hostage for ransom in the Third World and was once imprisoned by Moammar Gadhafi. Derrick makes no secret of the fact that Heroes means more to him than anything he has ever done. The film centers on the stories behind four officers who lost their lives in the line of duty during 2011 and the subsequent impacts on their families and departments. It follows the families and agencies up through the events at Police Week, a time that is often both cathartic and emotionally overwhelming.
Among those profiled in Heroes are two detectives who Erfurth worked with while he was at Miami Dade: Amanda Haworth and Roger Castillo. They were killed during the service of a warrant on a career criminal wanted for murder. It was their deaths that crystallized Erfurth’s long-discussed desire to produce a film capable of conveying the intensity of police work and the incredible impact when an officer is lost in the line of duty. There are two other LODDs covered by the film: Deputy Suzanne Hopper, Clark County (Ohio) Sheriff’s Office, who was murdered while investigating a report of shots fired at a trailer park and Officer Jeremy Henwood of the San Diego Police Department.
The story of Henwood was of particular interest to me because I have a long history in San Diego, having been born there and spending almost my entire LE career working in San Diego County. Henwood was assassinated in the middle of the day by a coward who pulled alongside his patrol vehicle and shot him in the head with a shotgun.
When Erfurth and Derrick came to San Diego to film the Heroes segment on Henwood, I met up with them at the scene of the shooting. While there, I had a chance to visit with SDPD Sgt. Mike Holden, who was the first to reach Henwood after he was shot. This is the type of experience cops carry to their graves, the kind of experience that someone who’s never worked in LE could never really understand. Conveying a strong yet quiet presence, Holden looked like he actually belonged on a movie set. I was proud that this man was representing those who have worn a badge.
Erfurth told me he wants Heroes to convey the depth and breadth of law enforcement’s commitment and sacrifice. To that end, his team has spent hundreds of hours with the families and the departments as they prepared to attend Police Week. They rode with them as they made the trip to Washington DC for Police Week. The team also covered related events like the Police Week 5K and the Memorial Candlelight ceremony.
Heroes is not only about those who have died but also covers three living heroes. One of them is Mike Neale, a man that I’ve had the opportunity to share an extended visit with. Neale is responsible for bringing an end to a reign of terror that included the murder of two West Memphis, Arkansas, officers. Neale drove his police truck directly at the suspects, intentionally crashing into their vehicle and engaging them in a firefight that included firing his rifle through his own windshield. I can’t think of a more deserving person to have featured in this movie.
Bottom line: I think Heroes is going to be a real winner and we’re very proud to be a strategic partner in this incredible effort. It’s a film that will touch you and remind you of the reasons you joined this honorable profession. Stay tuned to Law Officer for the latest.