CRESTVIEW — The artist who anonymously donated a set of relief carvings of fallen Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office deputies has stepped forward.
When Bill Walton heard the sheriff’s office was looking for him — to thank him, not to arrest him — he thought, “Uh oh,” he said.
The wooden tribute likenesses mysteriously appeared at OCSO’s North Okaloosa district office around Christmastime after having been on display at the Crestview Public Library.
Walton wanted to remain anonymous when he dropped the carvings off one night, leaving them with an EMT who staffed the nighttime ambulance shift based at OCSO’s Brackin Street office.
Tuesday, Walton stepped forward.
“He ‘fessed up to me that he dropped them off,” station head Capt. Larry Ward said. “It’s a great tribute to those deputies. It’s an honor to have them and now we know who did it.”
Walton is a self-described one-time “bad boy” who said he had brushes with the law in his youth, and wants to both make amends for his previous mistakes and teach his children to do the right thing.
“When the officer (Deputy Bill Myers) got shot down in Shalimar, me and one of my sons were trying to think of something we could do,” Walton said.
After they executed Myers’ likeness, the Waltons contacted OCSO and received photos of Deputies Skip York, Bert Lopez and Tony Forgione, and Sheriff John Sumerlin, all of whom died in the line of duty.
“Making these was a good teaching lesson for my kids,” Walton said. “I try to teach our kids to do good charity stuff without getting something in return. I think we did good.”
Each of the five portraits took three days to complete, Walton said, beginning with using a CNC — computer numerical control — router to carve each deputy’s image into a plank of bass wood.
Now that Walton has his own contracting company, making projects on his CNC router is “just kind of a hobby.”
But his hobby is one that brings pride and comfort to the deputies as they pass his work displayed in the hallway at OCSO’s Crestview station.
“He’s just part of the group of people that gives back to his community,” Ward said. “The rest of us appreciate guys like him.”