By Ed Brock
Perhaps Clayton County Police Sgt. Michael Davis was speeding to the aid of his fellow officers when he became the first county officer in over 50 years to give his life in the line of duty.
At around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, 40-year-old Davis was in his patrol car going north on Tara Boulevard when he hit the back of a Ford F-150 pickup truck driven by 24-year-old Dave Thomas Harvey of College Park near Valley Hill Road, according to Clayton County Assistant Police Chief Jeff Turner. Davis' car flipped several times before crashing into a ditch in the median.
Davis, a 17-year veteran of the department, was rushed to Southern Regional Medical Center after being cut free of the mangled police cruiser, but he died from the wounds he suffered in crash.
Harvey was not badly injured.
At the time of the accident, some of his fellow officers were searching for a stolen car in a nearby area.
“He may have been going in that direction,” Turner said, though he added that Davis was not using his bluelights or siren and had not been called to the scene.
Turner, like many of the other officers on the force, seemed stunned by the incident.
“He was a good officer, hard working,” Turner said. “He enforced the state laws strictly by the book.”
Davis was single, his mother lives in Decatur and his father died about three years ago from cancer. He had a brother and a sister, and his cousin is also an officer with Clayton County.
He had been a sergeant for the last three years and was assigned to the Uniform Patrol Division on the morning watch.
Turner made a short smile as he remembered something else about the man who had devoted nearly two decades to the department.
“He had the cleanest car in the fleet,” Turner said. “He loved a clean car. Everybody was always joking with him about that.”
That car, what was left of it, lay in pieces at the Clayton County Sheriff's Office impound yard in Lovejoy. Its roof was crushed, the trunk flattened against the back window and half of the hood rammed through the windshield. Grass and mud remained pressed into the gaps on one side.
There is no estimate on how fast Davis was going at the time of impact, said Georgia State Trooper Larry Schnall. The State Patrol's Specialized Collision and Reconstruction Team is investigating the accident.
“We're still trying to determine exactly what happened,” Schnall said. “We'll probably go out there in a few days and map the scene out.”
So far no charges have been pressed against Harvey, who was in the inside lane when the accident occurred.
“He was possibly slowing or stopped when the patrol car hit him from behind,” Schnall said.
Traffic accidents are a major danger for police officers, Turner said.
“It's a hazard, especially if you travel at a high rate of speed, even with lights and siren on, it's still a hazard.”
The only two Henry County Police officers to die in the line of duty did so in traffic-related accidents.
On Feb. 16, Henry County Police Officer Chuck Haist, 32, wrecked while en route to assist other officers on a burglary call in Stockbridge. He died on the way to Henry Medical Center. Only months prior, Henry County Police Sgt. Jimmy Gilbert, 41, died in a traffic accident May 2, 2004 when he rear-ended a truck parked off the northbound lanes of Interstate 75.
Henry County Police Lt. Jason Bolton said his heart sank when he learned about the Davis' death.
“I got sick at my stomach,” Bolton said. “It didn't matter whether I knew him or not; the fact that an officer was killed in the line of duty was all I needed to know.”
Bolton went on to say that Davis made the ultimate sacrifice and died trying to make a difference.
Funeral arrangements for Davis are still being finalized at Donald Trimble Mortuary in Decatur, but an employee of the funeral home said it will probably be held Saturday. Visitation will be held at the mortuary at 1876 Second Avenue Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.
For more information call the mortuary at (404) 371-0772.