Nine members of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department and the surviving wife of their fallen colleague who was killed in the line of duty in 2011 will participate in the 2016 Police Unity Tour.

The Police Unity Tour is an annual fundraising event in which members of law enforcement join together with survivors of fallen law enforcement officers to bicycle hundreds of miles to Washington D.C. over the course of a grueling three days to kickoff National Police Week. The purpose of the ride is to raise awareness of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, and to raise funds for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum. The motto of the Police Unity Tour is “We Ride for Those Who Died.”

Melissa Christian-Griffeth, the surviving wife of Officer Buddy Christian, is riding for her fifth year in a row. Riding alongside Christian-Griffeth will be a contingent of volunteers from the Athens-Clarke County Police Department.

David Griffeth, Mark Heath, and Katie Thornton will be riding bicycles in the Tour for their second year in a row. Newcomers Robbie Cochran and Dan Whitney will also ride the Tour on bicycles.

The bicyclists will be accompanied by Courtney Gale who will provide logistical support. Don Eckert and Von Anderson will escort the Tour on motorcycles.

Collectively they will form Team Buddy Christian Foundation, and they have pledged to raise $15,000. The proceeds they raise will go to support the operations of the Police Unity Tour and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum, which receives no government funding.

In addition to Buddy Christian, the team will be riding to honor the nine Georgia officers killed in the line of duty in 2015:

  1. Detective Terence Avery Green, Fulton County Police Department
  2. Police Officer Darryl Deon Wallace, Clayton County Police Department
  3. Police Officer Toure Heywood, Georgia State University Police Department
  4. Sheriff Ladson O’Connor, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office
  5. Correctional Officer Gregory Dale Mitchell, Georgia Department of Corrections
  6. Deputy Sheriff Richard Allen Hall, Chatham County Sheriff’s Office
  7. Police Officer Kevin Jermaine Toatley, Dekalb County Police Department
  8. Corporal William Matthew Solomon, Georgia Ports Authority Police Department
  9. Police Officer Jesse Arthaniel Tarplin, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority Police Department

“Each rider wears a bracelet that has the name of the officer they are riding for engraved on it,” Christian-Griffeth said. “Once the riders reach the police memorial wall in D.C., they present the fallen officer’s family with the bracelet as a testament that their officer will never be forgotten.”

The public can donate online at to help the riders in their quest to raise the $15,000 they have pledged to support the Police Unity tour and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum.


If you would like more information about this press release, please contact Melissa Christian-Griffeth at 502/694-2370 or

[olimometer id=3]