Widow of slain deputy says she wasn't included in plans for memorial fundraiser

gmartin@islandpacket.comJanuary 3, 2012 

At a charity fundraiser Saturday memorializing the slaying 10 years ago of two Beaufort County sheriff's deputies, there will be one conspicuous absence.

For DJ Coursen, the widow of Cpl. Dyke "A.J." Coursen, the event's planning has rekindled years of raw emotions. Cpl. Coursen, along with Lance Cpl. Dana Tate, was killed after responding to a domestic violence call in a Burton mobile home.

The Tate/Coursen Memorial Walk/Run, planned by Tate's widow, Marie, will benefit the Beaufort-based charity Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse.

But Coursen, who now works as a domestic-abuse victim's advocate in a municipal court in Ohio, says the event's cause is ill-suited to the tragedy it recalls.

"To me, that wasn't a domestic violence incident," she said. "In this case, the only victims were my husband and his partner."

Coursen said that the woman involved in the dispute, Kimberly Blake, knew her boyfriend was armed and prepared for an ambush, yet did nothing to alert the officers that he was hiding in a closet when they responded to the domestic violence call.

"I blame her as much as anyone for what happened," Coursen said.

Abdiyyah ben Alkebulanyahh, formerly known as Tyree Roberts, was sentenced to death in 2003 for murdering the deputies. He remains on death row.

Coursen is quick to point out she takes no exception to the fundraiser itself and remains grateful for the outpouring of support she received from the community after her husband's death.

"I think the walk is a good thing," she said. "But I'm upset about where the money is going. Why not give it to something benefiting (families of) fallen officers? That's where the focus should be on that day."

Coursen said she resents not being asked for her input, adding that she was "livid" when she received a letter from Tate in December notifying her of the event.

"I called her the minute I got that letter, saying 'Take my husband's name off of this,' " she said. "But by then there were banners and websites and T-shirts that had already been made."

Relations between the two widows have been strained for several years, they both acknowledged.

Coursen said she was elated when state legislators named the bridge over the Broad River in honor of the two deputies -- she and her husband used to eat lunch together at a nearby boat landing and watch its construction -- but the recognition was not commemorated with a ceremony or sign.

She last discussed naming the bridge with Tate and Sheriff P.J. Tanner at a meeting about four years ago. She said Tate didn't want the bridge named after her husband -- "The bridge has cracks in it," Coursen recalls Tate saying -- and that Tanner didn't intervene.

Tanner is aware of Coursen's opinions, but says his support of Saturday's event is unwavering.

"Marie came to us with this, and we'd love to participate in it," he said. "It's for a great cause, and we're in complete support of it."

Tanner said he respected Coursen's position, but added, "I think it's selfish on her part to feel that way."

He said he intends to pursue naming a Lady's Island sports facility, under construction and set to open later this year, after the two deputies.

But that proposal is unlikely to have the endorsement of Coursen, who described the idea as "naming things just to name them."

Tate said she was aware of but unaffected by Coursen's views.

"She has her views and her rights, and I have mine," she said. "It's a free country. I just want to make (Saturday's event) as positive an experience for everyone as I can."

Coursen believes her vocal opposition to the memorial event might seem incongruous amid the reverence and reflection expected to accompany it, but is adamant that her views are justified.

"People are going to think that I'm out of my mind, or that I'm some kind of bad guy," she said. "But they don't know my story.

"I just feel betrayed."

Follow reporter Grant Martin at Twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

Related content: High Court upholds death sentence for man who shot deputies, March 20, 2007

http://www.lowcountrynewspapers.net/archive/node/17703

Keywords: DJ Coursen, AJ Coursen, Marie Tate, Dana Tate, P.J. Tanner, Abdiyyah ben Alkebulanyahh, Tyree Roberts, Kimberly Blake, Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse

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