The damp coldness of Thursday afternoon did not hinder dozens of people from attending the dedication of the Kenny Moats Memorial Bridge.
The Blount County Highway Department, headed by Superintendent Jeff Headrick who attended the dedication, designed and unveiled the sign declaring the bridge’s new name.
Community leaders, law enforcement officers and Moats’ family gathered on Ellejoy Road near River Ford Road in solidarity for the public servant, a Maryville police officer murdered in the line of duty.
“He was so much a part of the Blount County community, and we are honored to be able to remember Officer Moats in this way today,” Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell said. “We always want to remember his service and sacrifice to Blount County.”
Mitchell as well as state Rep. Jerome Moon, Blount County Sheriff James Berrong, Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp and County Commissioners Brad Bowers, Steve Mikels, Mike Akard, Ron French and Nick Bright attended the dedication.
The dedication comes as the result of a unanimous vote by the Blount County Commission in August to name the bridge the “Kenny Moats Memorial Bridge.”
Moats died in 2016 after responding to a domestic violence call.
On Aug. 25, 2016, Moats and a Blount County Sheriff’s deputy were working a narcotics case near Alcoa Trail when a dispatcher informed them Brian Keith Stalans was threatening to kill his father.
When the deputy and Moats arrived on the scene, they escorted Stalans’ father to safety. The two officers were standing behind their patrol cars waiting for backup when Stalans opened fire on the officers, striking Moats in the neck above his bulletproof vest.
Later, investigators found a note Stalans wrote blaming the BCSO for his family’s misfortune and telling them goodbye, Berrong said in an August 2016 press conference. Stalans also had purchased .45-caliber bullets that morning.
Moats was transferred to University of Tennessee Medical Center and pronounced dead.
Stalans pleaded guilty to premeditated first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.
His death stirred unity within the community almost instantly.
Thousands of people filled Jack Greene Park for a community memorial for Moats.
Memorial motorcycle events, choral concerts and sporting events have ensued in the years since Moats’ death to honor his enormous impact on the community.
Moats was a nine-year veteran of the MPD. In 2011, he was recognized as a Readers’ Choice Police Officer by the readers of The Daily Times. He served as president of the Fraternal Order of Police — Bud Allison Memorial Lodge #9 beginning January 2016, and in May of the same year, he joined the Fifth Judicial Task Force.
He was a lifelong Blount Countian — a graduate of Heritage High School in 2002 and Walters State Community College Police Academy in 2005.
He was the husband of Britteni Nikole Moats and the father of Kamron and Tyson Moats and Mackenzie Burger.
At the time of his death, he was 32.
“Officer Moats’ life will not be forgotten, and the bridge named in his honor will serve as a reminder to those crossing over it about the impact his life made on those who crossed his path,” BCSO said in a Thursday Facebook post.