Community, local police departments honor 23-year-old Knightdale officer killed in crash
Posted October 17, 2021 6:52 a.m. EDT
Updated October 18, 2021 2:35 p.m. EDT
Knightdale, N.C. — The local community has rallied around the Knightdale Police Department after the death of a new officer on Sunday. Now, surrounding police departments will help with patrols to show their support.
A memorial of flowers in front of police headquarters honors 23-year-old Ryan Hayworth, who died after someone crashed into his patrol car during a traffic stop on Interstate 540. Another officer is in the hospital with critical injuries.
Officials said the two Knightdale squad cars were responding to a separate crash in the area around 2:30 a.m. when a Mercedes Benz slammed into them. At least one vehicle caught on fire.
Hayworth, a three-month veteran of the force and a former member of the United States Army, was killed in the crash.
A GoFundMe page was created over the weekend for Hayworth's funeral expenses, and the community plans to pay their respects with a vigil in the coming days.
“Ryan’s loss is an indescribable tragedy for our department and our community,” said Police Chief Lawrence Capps. “As we begin the process of healing, we ask that you join us in a season of prayer for all of those who have been forever touched by this heartbreaking event."
Hayworth was also the son of former Zebulon Police Chief Tim Hayworth.
"When we hire police officers, we are looking for individuals that embody the best of this profession -- all that is good, all that is wholesome, all that is pure, all that is righteous, and Ryan embodied those things," said Capps.
In 2018, Hayworth, then 20, shared a scary encounter with a deer with WRAL News. The animal jumped in front of his pickup truck, shattering the headlight and bending the frame.
"It was kind of like a flash. It came out of the woods going full speed," he said at the time.
Although shaken, Hayworth said he followed advice from his father.
"It's better to hit the deer than it is to swerve off the road and maybe crash the car into a tree or a ditch or hit another vehicle," he said.
Hayworth's training officer, Cody Hagler, was also seriously injured and remained at WakeMed for non-life-threatening injuries.
Law enforcement officers were seen comforting each other following the crash.
"His age does not fully describe or accurately reflect the legacy that he left not only in the department, but in his community and for his country, as well," said Capps.
Other area police departments have expressed their condolences for the Knightdale Police Department.
Fuquay-Varina Police Department wrote on Facebook: "The employees of the FVPD mourn with the Knighdale Police Department over the tragic loss of Ryan Hayworth, that was tragically killed in the line of duty related to a traffic crash."
Meanwhile, Wake County EMS said the organization "wishes a speedy recovery to those injured and healing to all responders that answered the call."
Selma and Roxboro police announced officers will be wearing black mourning bands this week in remembrance of Hayworth.
Officials identified Dedric Romero Privette, 40, as the person driving the Mercedes that caused the collision. Privette was also injured in the crash. Officials said alcohol was believed to be a factor.
The motorist involved in the earlier accident, Michael Melugin, Jr., was seriously injured. Melugin and Privette were taken to WakeMed, along with Officer Hagler.