Two Deaths, One Path to Unity

June 8, 2020

It is with a heavy but hopeful heart that I rise today, to talk about the death of two Americans last week. One tragedy is tearing our communities apart; the other may show us a path back toward unity.

We all know about the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last Monday. There is no excuse for what the police did to Mr. Floyd. His killers are being brought to justice.

His death, we all hope, will not be remembered for the senseless violence launched, falsely, in his name. But hopefully, in the long-term reform of policing policies across the country.

In my home state of Utah, the City of Ogden is mourning another death: that of Police Officer Nate Lyday.

On Thursday, May 28th, a woman called 9-1-1 saying that her husband was threatening her life. Lyday and a group of officers arrived at the house. The man began shooting from inside the house. Lyday was mortally wounded.

He was 24 years old, about to celebrate his 5-year wedding anniversary with his wife Ashley. He had been on the job for just 15 months.

By all accounts, he did that job honorably until the last moment. Nate Lyday was an officer who sought to uphold justice and protect the innocent; even making the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of a threatened and fearful family.

Nate Lyday was a “son of Ogden,” as Police Chief Randy Watt said. Ogden was where he was born and raised, where he went to high school, where he worked at the Fresh Market on 20th Street, and where he got his degree in criminal justice at Weber State University.

And it was where he was proud to serve and protect his community as a police officer.

According to Lt. Brian Eynon, Lyday was an officer who “worked over and above the call of duty.”
Eynon said that whenever he passed Lyday in the hallways, the young officer would always smile at him before he had a chance to smile first.

As his colleagues, friends, and classmates remember him, Nate Lyday made everyone around him feel like a friend, no matter how well they knew him.

This Saturday, while far too many other communities in our nation were tearing themselves apart, Ogden came together.

Hundreds of Ogden residents gathered near the front steps of the Ogden City Municipal Building to honor the memory of George Floyd and to call for nationwide police reform.

But this was not a divisive event designed to make everyone choose sides between police and protestors.

As Malik Dayo, an Ogden activist and organizer, said that day, “This is a peaceful protest… this is not an anti-cop rally. This is a solidarity rally.”
The protestors at the event honored George’s memory, condemned racism, and called for policing reforms. But they also thanked the officers there for protecting their first amendment rights to speak freely and gather peacefully.

And they honored the memory of Officer Lyday, who lost his life answering the call of duty just a few days before.

“I gave them my condolences for their fallen officer – our fallen officer, because we’re all part of the same community,” Dayo said of the police after the protest.

And Dayo is right.

Nate Lyday’s loss is our loss.

George Floyd’s loss is our loss.

And we ought to honor and remember them both.

We must all work to uphold justice for all. Both deaths last week show us just how far we have to go to achieve that goal. It is work that must be undertaken by each and every one of us.

But we cannot do that work by pitting ourselves against one another… race versus race, police versus protester.

We will never move forward if we continue to reduce human beings to the color of their skin or the color of their uniform.

We are all one nation. One family. And it will only be in standing – and working – together, in peaceful solidarity, that we can finally heal the wounds in our nation.

What the people of Ogden did this weekend is an example for us all, and it is reason for hope.

I yield the floor.