By Jacqueline Wilson
Julian Keen Jr., “Man”, Batman, LaBelle’s son. A superhero. Larger than life. An athlete. An angel. He was one of a kind. An old soul. Full of life. A contagious smile. A mentor to the youth and adults alike. A pillar to the community. He knew no color, no race, no age, just that he wanted to help those in need and to make a difference in the community.
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Officer Julian Keen Jr., 30, was fatally shot on Sunday, June 14, 2020, in LaBelle, Florida when he attempted to stop a hit-and-run suspect while off duty.
To honor his life and sacrifice, friends and community leaders have established the Julian Keen Memorial Scholarship, a fund for Hendry County youth committed to pursuing a criminal justice degree or a career in law enforcement. Keen’s family have started the hashtag #BeLikeJulian to uplift the community.
“Since the day of his death, the public outpouring of support has been tremendous,” Stated Tom Super, Vice President of SWFL Heroes Foundation. Pizza restaurant Sal-Cal Pizza donated a full day’s earnings to the scholarship fund. Tim Bullock of No Bull Custom Calls has donated several generous lots of turkey calls for auction. Cheerleaders from LaBelle High School hosted a bake sale to donate funds for the scholarship. A flag football fundraiser, LaBelle’s Son, was held at Hendry LaBelle Civic Park to honor Officer Keen. The wife of a fellow FWC officer has established www.belikejulian.com where family and friends can share memories, make donations, purchase BeLikeJulian merchandise, and participate in digital auctions and fundraisers for the cause.
On June 17, an emotional candlelit vigil was held at Barron Park. Hundreds gathered to celebrate Officer Keen and share his legacy, prayers, memories and encouraging words.
“Family and friends asked us if there was any way we could have a big flag in the air, so we reached out to Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue Chief DiLallo who provided us with an 85-foot ladder truck with a large flag,” said Michael Thompson, President of SWFL Heroes Foundation, a local non-profit that acts to provide support to first responders and their immediate families, widows, and orphans in Lee, Collier & Hendry counties.
SWFL Heroes encourages the public to get involved and continue to donate and support the scholarship fund to support the next generation of criminal justice experts and law enforcement officers.
“We’ve received donations from across the world,” said Thompson.
“Alaska, Canada, the United Kingdom, and beyond– the show of global support for Officer Keen has been remarkable, the community is really feeling the love.”
To contribute to Julian Keen Scholarship Fund, visit www.swflheroes.org. Donations can also be made payable to SW Florida Heroes Foundation, INC., or at any First Bank of Clewiston location with the memo: Julian Keen Memorial Scholarship. To mail in a donation, please address your payment to First Bank of Clewiston, P.O. Box 697, LaBelle, FL, 33975.