ROCKINGHAM — For Jason Graham, the annual fallen officers ceremony has a special meaning.
His friend, Richmond County native Troy Douglass Carr, was a North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement agent who was shot and killed on May 14, 1994 while pursuing a drunk driving suspect on foot in Fayetteville.
“The guy exited the vehicle and he took off after him and the guy wheeled around and fired twice,” said Graham, who is now the chief probation officer for Richmond County. “Troy shot him as well, but Troy got killed.”
Carr was 24 years old.
Graham said he and Carr grew up and graduated together and had both decided to go into law enforcement, but chose different paths.
Following the reading of a proclamation by Kenneth Robinette, chairman of the Richmond County Board of Commissioners, Sheriff James E. Clemmons Jr. invited the heads of the other law enforcement departments up to the podium to say a few words.
“Officers risk their lives and put their own safety at risk to make sure that our communities are safe and the highways are safe,” said 1st Sgt. Joheliah Wilson, head of the N.C. Highway Patrol office in Hamlet. “It’s a selfless endeavor and truly honorable path that only a few will choose as a career. Sadly, some officers pay the ultimate price while protecting and serving our communities.”
Wilson repeated a statistic mentioned by Clemmons earlier in the service, saying that more than 50 law enforcement officers have been killed so far this year. She added that the average age of the officers killed is 42.
“It’s not like it’s the young officers,” she said. “It’s seasoned officers and they have an average of 14.5 months of service. So just because you’ve been around for a while, doesn’t really mean that you’re safe or that you’re exempt.”
Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly, the next speaker, said people join law enforcement for different reasons.
“Maybe it’s to help their community, or maybe they were affected by crime,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a state, federal or even local agency, I see these men and women as American heroes.”
Hamlet Police Chief Scott Waters remembered one of his predecessors, Chief Jonathan Lowe, who was killed May 5, 1942.
“Not only did he lose his life that day, the gunman that killed him also killed his own wife his two sisters-in-law and a newphew,” he said. “My prayer is which each and everyone who put this badge on daily and go out here to protect and serve our communities. And without the prayer and support and love that the community shows us, it makes the job very difficult.”
Waters said in addition to those who lost their lives in the line of duty, he would also like to remember those officers who retired, but may have died from illnesses related to the job.
“You don’t ever get enough praise, you don’t ever get enough thanks for the job you do,” Hamlet Fire Chief Calvin White told the officers in attendance. “I appreciate what you do every day. You’re out there in the streets — without you I don’t know what kind of a neighborhood, what kind of county, what kind of state, what kind of country we would have.
“You, sometimes, pay the ultimate price, just like we do on the fire side,” he added. “We all strap on our uniform in the morning and we go to work and we hope to come home the next day. All throughout the day, we have in mind taking care of people we don’t even know….We are behind you 100 percent.”
Near the end of the service, Clemmons called for a moment of silence for former Deputy Claude Lee Taylor who died in 2015.
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.