SANFORD, N.C. — An Army veteran and former Sanford police officer, working as a security contractor in Iraq, was killed when his vehicle was hit by a taxi.
Jesse Gentry, 61, served in the Army and with law enforcement agencies in Lee and Harnett counties before he went to Iraq in March, his daughter, Meta Brooks, said Saturday.
Gentry was working for Dyncorp Inc. The company is a division of Computer Science Services, Inc., based in El Segundo, Calif. He was due to come home in July for a 30-day break.
Brooks said her father was riding in a convoy of eight to 10 vehicles Thursday when a cab swerved in front of the one in which he was riding. Gentry and another man were thrown out and killed.
Authorities have told the family the incident may have been a suicide attack. But Brooks said they are awaiting more details.
Brooks said her father had served two tours of duty in Vietnam and was dedicated to his work. He had been helping to train Iraqi police and was also doing investigative work, she said.
"He lived for this stuff," Brooks said. "He was so excited about doing it."
Gentry's former partner in the Sanford Police Department said Gentry was a pleasure to be around.
"Jesse was the best friend I ever had," Sgt. Jim Eads said. "And as a partner, he was that in every sense of the word.
"Some aspects of the job we do are bad, but he always found a lighter side to it. So that made doing the business easier."
Gentry was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in West Virginia and Florida, settling in North Carolina after he retired from the military.
He is survived by his wife, Vicki, four grown children and a stepdaughter.
Eads said he last talked with Gentry in March, just before Gentry left for Iraq. On Thursday, Eads and the rest of the Sanford Police Department received word of the crash.
It struck Eads that danger in Iraq comes in many forms.
Gentry worked for the Sanford Police Department about 10 years. Before that, he survived two tours of duty in Vietnam.
His body is expected back in the states next week.