‘Just an exemplary officer’


William R. Toler | Daily Journal A stripe of black tape is stretched across the badge on each side of Sgt. Lee Taylor’s patrol car as it sits in front of Watson-King Funeral Home in Rockingham. A single red rose and two small bouquets of flowers adorn the the windshield.

HOFFMAN — Sgt. Lee Taylor will be laid to rest Friday with full law enforcement honors from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard.

Taylor spent 15 years with the sheriff’s office, eight years with the N.C. Department of Corrections and 12 years in the United States Army as an M.P.

Born in Halifax County, Taylor joined the Army in 1980 — attaining the rank of sergeant — and was certified as a sentry dog, patrol dog, narcotic dog and explosives dog handler, according to his obituary (see page 3A).

When he left the military in 1992, Taylor worked with the D.O.C. as a bloodhound and narcotics dog handler out of the South Central Area Office in McCain.

Taylor, and his bloodhound Major, were featured in a Fayetteville Observer story in 1999 after tracking down a Moore County bank robbery suspect.

According to media reports, Alton Leon Smith crashed a car while attempting to elude deputies after robbing a BB&T.

Smith then ran into the woods near Eagle Springs, setting off a manhunt.

Taylor and Major were called in to assist in the search and tracked Smith for seven miles in the course of four hours before finding him walking along railroad tracks.

“I don’t know how to put into words the type of person he was,” said Capt. Bill Mackey with the Moore County Sheriff’s Office. “He was just an exemplary officer. At the drop of a dime, he would be there to help you.”

Mackey said both Taylor and his brother, W.D. Taylor, worked with them “quite a bit.”

“I couldn’t tell you the number of cases where we had to come into Richmond County that they assisted us,” he said, including looking for a homicide suspect in the Hoffman area. “They had contacts, they had information. Any time we called, they were there. They were quite a team.”

He described Taylor as very professional and very knowledgeable.

“We tried to recruit him, but his ties to Richmond County were deep,” he said.

Taylor’s K-9 handling continued into his early years with the sheriff’s office, where he helped locate missing children and elderly people.

His later years as a deputy were spent working with the Department of Social Services and child support office and was a member of Richmond County Crime Stoppers.

It was in the DSS parking lot where Taylor suffered a medical emergency Monday morning and later died at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital.

Taylor’s funeral is planned for 2 p.m. Friday at Marston Baptist Church. Burial will be in the Blue Family Cemetery on Teal Street in Hoffman with law enforcement honors.

In addition to his work with the sheriff’s office, Taylor served with Hoffman Fire and Rescue as a volunteer fireman for nearly 20 years.

“When you meet somebody like him,” Mackey said, “you know you’re better for it.”

Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.