Photo by Kathy Jefcoats Dwayne Green, of Tara Gardens Chapel, accepts a commendation from Clayton Sheriff Kem Kimbrough and Chief Deputy Garland Watkins.
Coping with the trauma of the July 20 shooting death of Clayton County Sheriff's Deputy Rick Daly would have been much harder for his colleagues without the support of outside public safety agencies, and a handful of local businesses, said Sheriff Kem Kimbrough.
Kimbrough showed his appreciation for that support, in the dark days following Daly's death, through the recent presentation of special commendations.
"We need to love one another, stand shoulder to shoulder," he said. "We chose our side, and we stood with that side in the aftermath of Rick's death. You know, we're the good guys."
Daly was shot and killed during a felony traffic stop in Riverdale. The alleged shooter, Johnathan Bun, faces murder charges, and is being held without bond in the Henry County Jail.
Medics with Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services responded to the shooting and began treating Daly for two gunshot wounds. "We just want to say thanks for everything you did to try and save Rick," said Kimbrough, as he presented a framed commendation to Fire Chief Jeff Hood. "We thank everyone who showed up and stood up for Rick. The things you did in a show of solidarity, at the funeral with all the fire trucks, it was beautiful."
Hood said it was important for his department to mourn the loss with the sheriff's employees. "It's important to us to participate in the process," said Hood. "We grieve as well, it's part of the process."
The Clayton County Police Department was also recognized for its efforts and support. In presenting the commendations to deputy chiefs Chris Butler and Tim Robinson, Kimbrough acknowledged the loss of officers from that department through car or motorcycle crashes.
"When I reflect back on those days after Rick's death, one thing that stands out is the solidarity," said Kimbrough. "We're all brothers on the scene, and we've both lost officers in the line of duty. It's hurts, you know? It hurts."
Kimbrough also alluded to past friction between the departments. "We get sidetracked, but on that day, we were all in one accord," he said. "We were not going to let this dude get by with killing one of our own. We go through rough patches, but at the end of the day, our patches say 'Clayton County.'"
Bun fled the scene after the shooting and eluded capture for about five hours. About 20 agencies from all over the metro area converged on Riverdale to set up a dragnet to catch him. Bun was found less than a half-mile from the shooting scene, hiding in the woods.
"Tim and I were out there the entire time, and the whole thing was 'capture Bun,'" said Butler. "And we did that. We established a perimeter and held him in that area. That was our No. 1 priority, keep him in that area. We all thought that led to such a fast arrest."
In the days that followed, Kimbrough and other officials worked alongside Daly's family to prepare a funeral ceremony befitting the death of a law enforcement officer. For uniforms, ceremonial medals and pins and other related items, Kimbrough turned to T and T Uniforms in Jonesboro. He presented Kevin McDonough, Sr., with a commendation of appreciation for the business' support. McDonough was moved to tears.
"This is so special," he said. "We've never had anything like this before. In the 40 years we've been in business. All the funerals we've done, we've never even thought to expect something like this."
Surrounded by Kimbrough and his command staff, McDonough said he appreciates the sacrifices made every day by public safety officers. "The taxpayers of Clayton County, I don't think they really have an honest clue about what you guys do day in, and day out," he said. "The times you guys put your lives on the line. You guys are like an insurance policy, we don't need you until we need you, and then we expect full coverage."
Daly's funeral was held in the 2,500-seat auditorium at First Baptist Church, Jonesboro.
Kimbrough described public safety officers as "ministers of the law. I've talked to clergy, and they tell me that we have to walk in faith," said Kimbrough. "There are bad people, that we can't tactically be aware of them all the time. You gotta have faith that because we're doing the right thing, God is looking out for us."
KImbrough presented the commendation of appreciation to Senior Pastor Mel Blackaby and Wes Agnew, First Baptists business administrator.
"You helped us with Rick's homegoing, you opened your arms and wrapped them around us and helped us with our grief," said Kimbrough.
Blackaby said he would present the commendation to the congregation at the next Sunday service. "We appreciate this and all you do," he said. "It's been a tough year, but when you go through it together, it makes a difference."
Tara Gardens Chapel handled the final arrangements. Dwayne Green accepted the commendation on behalf of the Jonesboro funeral home. "It was truly an honor to be able to lighten the burden for the family," said Green. "I've been doing this for 25 years, and it's not easy. But it's a ministry and we don't take it lightly at all."
Kimbrough said Daly's death reminded him again what an obligation those in law enforcement have to support each other. "We need to be ready and prepared for others who need it," he said.
As much as the Clayton Police Department was ready and prepared to lend support to the sheriff's office, Butler said he hopes it is not needed anytime soon.
"Hopefully, we won't have to ever do this again," he said.