ROCKINGHAM — A Richmond County sheriff’s deputy — who “served in a law enforcement capacity for numerous years” — died late Monday morning after a medical emergency.
Chief Deputy Mark Gulledge confirmed Monday afternoon that Sgt. Claude Lee Taylor, 53, died at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital earlier in the day.
“We received a call a little bit after 10 a.m. that a deputy was in distress in the parking lot of the Richmond County Department of Social Services,” Gulledge said. “Law enforcement and medical staff responded and it was found that the deputy in the parking lot was having some kind of unknown medical emergency.”
Taylor, who was from Hoffman, was pronounced dead at the hospital after numerous attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
Gulledge said the cause of death was not yet known.
By noon, other deputies had black bands across their badges in memory of Taylor. The flags at the Richmond County Judicial Center, old courthouse and Richmond County administration building were also lowered to half-staff.
At 1:30 p.m., two Richmond County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars and several unmarked cars sat outside the emergency room.
Later in the afternoon, Taylor’s patrol car was parked outside Watson-King Funeral Home in Rockingham.
Taylor had been with the sheriff’s office since 2000 worked with the Department of Social Services and child support office, Gulledge said.
Prior to joining the sheriff’s office, Gulledge said Taylor was “a longtime dog handler” with the North Carolina Department of Corrections.
“When they called me this morning, I was shocked,” said Jeff Avant, chairman of Richmond County Crime Stoppers, who said Taylor was also a member.
“Super guy…they just don’t come any better,” he continued. “He’d take his shirt off and give it to you. Once you knew him, you had a friend for life.”
Avant said he met Taylor five or six years ago and had recently talked with the deputy about his plans to get married and retire.
“He loved to fish,” Avant said, adding, “I never got to fish with him.”
One month ago, Taylor was in one of two cars bringing up the rear in the annual Special Olympics Torch Run, escorting officers from the sheriff’s office, probation and parole office, N.C. Highway Patrol and Hamlet Police Department as they ran from the county animal shelter to Hitchcock Creek.
“It’s tragic any time someone dies in the line of duty,” Gulledge said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, loved ones and his co-workers.”
Commenters on the Daily Journal’s Facebook page offered similar condolences to Taylor’s family and law enforcement family.
“I had a two-hour conversation with him one time on the way from Wilmington to RCO and I could tell he wasn’t one of them ‘super cops’ that wanna abuse authority,” wrote Zach Roscoe. “He just did his job and went home. He was a very nice respectful officer and I hate this happened to him.”
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.