LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Bagpipes played Wednesday morning as runners started on a journey that has a somber purpose, but can’t help but lift the spirits of everyone involved.

The Nevada Law Enforcement Memorial Relay took off from Police Memorial Park in the northwest valley. The relay will take runners more than 400 miles to Carson City, where they will deliver the names of Nevada’s 144 fallen officers, carried inside a baton that is passed forward along the route.

The baton holds seven new names this time out, remembering the officers who have died in the line of duty. The relay was last run in 2019, before the pandemic. Last year, three officers were remembered in a ceremony, but there was no relay.

Sheriff Joe Lombardo and Metro leaders started the relay, handing off the baton to the family of fallen Metro officer Jason Swanger to run the second leg. After that, the baton went to members of Metro’s Northwest Area Command, who were joined by Minddie Lloyd, widow of Lt. Erik Lloyd, who died of COVID and was added to the memorial in July.

The relay is now on U.S. 95, headed out of the valley, escorted by police as runners head toward Indian Springs, Beatty, Goldfield and Tonopah. That’s where Northern Nevada police agencies take over, taking the baton through Mina, Luning, Hawthorne, Yerington, Gardnerville, Minden and on to Carson City.

It’s a unique event, sometimes drawing families and volunteers to run alongside officers. The highway route passes Nevada landmarks and small towns that sometimes greet the event. Motorists need to have some patience — the highway is mostly one lane each way after passing Mercury, site of the Nevada National Security Site.

Organizers emphasize safety along the route — it’s not a spectator event, and drivers need to be careful around the police escort. The road is a busy trucking route.

The route passes numerous roadside memorials that underscore the importance of taking extra care.

Runners are scheduled to arrive on May 5. A ceremony will unveil the names added to the memorial in the plaza surrounded by the Nevada Capitol, the Nevada Supreme Court and the Nevada Legislature:

  • Jason Swanger, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Swanger died of complications from COVID-19.
  • Micah May, Nevada State Police trooper. May was run down on Interstate 15 as he placed “stop strips” on the highway as authorities pursued a suspect on the highway. May is the 10th Highway Patrol trooper to die in the line of duty.
  • John King, deputy for the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office. King died of complications from COVID-19.
  • Donald Poffenroth, deputy for the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office. Poffenroth died of complications from COVID-19.
  • Ignacio Romero, corporal with the Lander County Sheriff’s Office. Romero died of complications from COVID-19.

Two historical deaths — which are added on a different part of the memorial — are included this year:

  • John Dorff, Deputy Chief Fire Marshal for Nevada State Fire Marshal division. Dorff died of cancer in 1995, classified as an on-duty related incident.
  • Marvin Scott, Henderson Police Department. Scott died of a heart attack in 1977, related to an on-duty incident.