Christopher Ridley’s mother remembered that when her son was young, he mentioned to her that he would become famous one day.
Little did Felita Bouche know that his comment would be prophetic but under the most tragic of circumstances.
Westchester County unveiled the Detective Christopher A. Ridley Memorial in front of 85 Court St. in White Plains during a ceremony on Saturday morning attended by friends, family and local and county officials.
The roughly 1,500-pound solid granite monument stands at the location where Ridley, a member of the Mount Vernon Police Department, died on Jan. 25, 2008, trying to help two people who were being assaulted while he was off duty. The 23-year-old detective, who grew up and lived in Mount Vernon and had served the police force for one year, left the safety of his vehicle but was mistakenly killed by responding law enforcement who believed he was the suspect.
Bouche said assisting others was a quality that was instilled in her son from a young age.
“My dad’s military, so in our family we always helped others (because) you will be helped,” she said. “You may not be helped by that person but the favor will return itself.”
Ridley’s father, Stanley Ridley, called his son an inspiration for putting others in front of himself.
“Christopher’s memory is one of the many great contributions that will come out of Mount Vernon’s community,” he said. “He may no longer be ours, but now his memory belongs to this world.”
The monument, designed by the county’s Associate Planner for Urban Design Suzette Lopane, is anchored in front of the Department of Social Services (DSS) building. It contains an engraved image of Ridley with an explanation of the events surrounding his death. On its back, the poem “I Rise” by Maya Angelou is engraved.
Lopane said she began consulting with the family in July 2018 and reviewed various ideas before they agreed to the final design. The county Board of Legislators approved its creation early last year. A groundbreaking was held on the 11th anniversary of Ridley’s death last January.
Pastor W. Franklyn Richardson of the Grace Baptist Church in White Plains commended the county for stepping forward and acknowledging Ridley’s service and sacrifice. The area in front of the DSS building had been previously dedicated to Ridley with a plaque but didn’t catch the attention of many passersby.
After close to a decade, county officials agreed that a monument to Ridley’s actions would be a fitting tribute.
“It’s also saying we own the mistakes and we don’t want it to ever go away, we can’t sweep it under the rug, and anytime you drive by here you will remember that a young man gave his life,” Richardson said. “You will remember that the county did not back away, but stepped forward and recognized that justice, recognized that compassion.”
The push for the monument received support from County Executive George Latimer not only because of Ridley’s sacrifice but that his death reverberated in communities throughout Westchester.
“This life mattered to the people who loved him and related to him, but his life mattered for all of us in the City of Mount Vernon and the City of White Plains and in the County of Westchester,” Latimer said. “There are so many people that helped make this moment happen, but for as long as there is a Court Street, as long as there is a White Plains and the county as an entity, there will always be this to remember because of the man he was, not merely because of the way he lost his life.”
County Legislator Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon) called Ridley “a hero” for willing to put his own life at risk in coming to the aid of others.
Deputy County Executive Kenneth Jenkins, who served as the host for the 40-minute ceremony, said he hoped that Ridley’s actions will inspire others to a life of service.
“It is our sincere hope that this memorial will not only immortalize Christopher’s life of sacrifice but will also serve to educate and inspire citizens and leaders in all communities to live in a spirit of peace, justice and reciprocity,” Jenkins said.
Ridley was posthumously promoted to detective by the Mount Vernon Police Department.