There were anxious rumors of possible protests, but love prevailed as thousands of people, both young and old and in-between, from every walk of life imaginable, gathered together in honor of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Officer Julian Keen Jr. at the candlelight vigil in Barron Park on June 18. Law enforcement officers and first responders, from all over the nation, were there in Officer Keen’s honor, even some from NYPD. Fire departments from around the state brought ladder trucks unfurling a giant American flag and a fallen officer flag across the sky. Down below, the river was dotted with boats that played Officer Keen’s favorite songs and flew different, colorful flags. Several live social media feeds had over 1,000 people watching, as countless memories and hundreds of photos of Julian were shared. At nightfall, candles were flickering and lanterns lit up the sky over LaBelle Bridge.
“Julian, “Man,” Batman, LaBelle’s Son, A Superhero. Larger than life. An athlete. An angel. He was one of a kind. An old soul. Full of life. A contagious smile. A mentor to the youth and adults alike. A pillar to the community. He knew no color, no race, no age, just that he wanted to help those in need and to make a difference in our community. He was the sunshine on those rainy days. He wanted to see everyone be their best. What he accomplished in his short 30 years will last a lifetime and will continue to bring people together. The world has lost one of the most amazing souls God has ever created. Rest In Peace and may we all #BelikeJulian,” said Cory Raborn.
For those of who couldn’t attend, here is one of the live video links: https://www.facebook.com/tonyricardobarnes/videos/10159970925254447/
On June 22 a memorial service was held in honor of widely beloved, fallen Officer Keen, with hundreds in attendance. Leading up to the service, a long procession of law enforcement officers in their emergency vehicles traveled through LaBelle on their way to the venue at Mudge Ranch in Muse.
A giant American flag, suspended by a ladder truck from the fire department, was symbolic of Julian’s larger-than-life personality. Family and friends gathered to say goodbye to “LaBelle’s son,” as law enforcement officers presented his casket.
One by one, memories of Julian at work, playing football, and around LaBelle were shared. A flag folding ceremony, bagpipes, and a flyover followed the service.
Friends and family have pledged to keep his memory alive, with projects like his memorial scholarship, youth mentor ships, fishing tournaments, erecting life-sized bronze statues, and even naming the LaBelle High School football field after him.
“We’re going to continue his legacy the best way we can,” said Mr. Raborn.
Countless bouquets of flowers, balloons, drawings from kids, hats and other items were seen near the crosses that have been placed were he was murdered. A large sign, naming Julian a town hero, has also been erected there.
Visitation and funeral services are planned for Saturday, June 27, at 10 a.m. at Bethel Ministries International, 1225 W. Main St., Immokalee, with the service starting at 11 a.m. Masks or facial coverings are required for attendance.
Officer Keen died June 14. Officer Keen, who was off duty, was shot when he stopped a reckless driver. Eliceo Hernandez, 20, of LaBelle was arrested June 15 and charged with negligent homicide.