For many, certainly the family members left behind and the fellow law officers who knew them, it is difficult to fathom that 10 years have passed since Danny Wilson and Donnie Ouzts were gunned down in Abbeville on the property once owned by Arthur and Rita Bixby and occupied with their son, Steven.
Each year on the anniversary of the killings that culminated in a horrific 14-hour standoff with law enforcement, the community took time to remember the lawmen. The 10th anniversary was no different and included a wreath laying at a monument to Ouzts and Wilson. The monument is on the grounds of the Abbeville Law Enforcement Center.
The killings were senseless, unnecessary, avoidable. The Bixbys moved to Abbeville County from New Hampshire, where the father and son had encountered some legal troubles. They shamed their state's motto — "Live Free or Die" — on Dec. 8, 2003, when they gunned down the deputy and constable on what was supposed to be a relatively simple attempt to engage the Bixbys in conversation to mediate a dispute. The family was confrontational, refusing to relinquish to the state Department of Transportation what rightfully was DOT's right-of-way for a highway widening project.
Deputy Wilson was shot while he stood on the front porch of the Bixby home and dragged inside where he died. Constable Ouzts arrived at the scene to check up on Wilson. He was shot after he exited his automobile and approached the home. He died while being taken to an area hospital.
Such tragedies will never be completely avoided. As long as there is a human race there will be conflict and a need for law enforcement. But herein lies another prime example of what all law enforcement officers face on any given day, an example of why we should have and maintain a deep admiration and respect for their service to us.
Nothing will bring those fallen men back to their loved ones, but it is good the community honors their memories each year. That is as it should be.
And as senior staff writer Chris Trainor enunciated so well in his Sunday column, it is their names — Donnie Ouzts and Danny Wilson — that should be remembered and honored, not the names of their killers, two of whom died, one in prison, the other in an institution. The son remains on death row.