Local News

Hundreds turn out for vigil to honor Knightdale police officer killed on I-540

Posted October 19, 2021 3:36 p.m. EDT
Updated October 20, 2021 10:17 p.m. EDT

— On Wednesday night, Knightdale police officer Ryan Hayworth was honored at a public candlelight vigil. Hundreds of people, including local police officers, friends, family and community members lit their candles as the sun went down at Knightdale Station Park.

As a memorial grows outside the Knightdale Police Department, four local police departments have taken over patrols in the town so Knightdale officers can mourn and honor their fallen colleague.

Knightdale Mayor Jessica Day said Hayworth represented everything that the town wanted and made the community a better place.

Chief Lawrence Capps said overwhelming community support is why he wanted to make sure the public had an opportunity to honor Hayworth’s sacrifice and legacy.

“The outpouring of support from them has just been tremendous, and the love that our community has shown us has just been extraordinary, and with that we have been able to move forward,” said Capps. “All things considered, we are doing well and we know that we will be even better in the days to come by just leaning on one another and relying on one another and lifting one another up,” he added.

Hayworth died Sunday when a suspected drunk driver smashed into the back of his patrol car on Interstate 540 in Raleigh.

“Ryan’s loss is a very tragic event. And it has touched us in ways that we can’t really put into words. Indescribable. Devastating. Extraordinarily painful,” said Capps.

Hayworth, 23, had only worked for the Knightdale Police Department for three months. Before coming to Knightdale, Hayworth served as a Specialist in the Army National Guard and had served in Kuwait during Operation Enduring Freedom, for which he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and many other honors.

"To see that he was so young ... it hurt me real bad," said Ebony Coots, who lives in Raleigh. "Hearing the life that he lived ... it's heartbreaking and we appreciate his service so much."

He also actively served as a youth leader in his church.

Raleigh Police Capt. Andy Murr said Hayworth was pleasant to be around and usually brightening everyone's day.

"He gave his life to a life of service," said Murr. "Even starting as a teenager, he helped those who needed help. He was committed to a life of service in the U.S. military and then as a police officer."

Capps said the large amount of people wanting to help their department and the families mourning shows the true purpose of community. “I’ve always known that the people of Knightdale have supported us and appreciate the work that we do. To see it in action now on their part, their service to us, during this time again has just been tremendous and even at times a bit overwhelming,” he added.

The public was highly encouraged to attend the vigil in lieu of services hosted by the family on Thursday and Friday.

After Hayworth's sudden death, the Knightdale Police Department shared a photo of a memorial outside their station, with flags lowered to half-staff. On Monday, a long line of vehicles from multiple state and local law enforcement agencies escorted Hayworth's body as he returned home to Knightdale.

Officer Ryan Hayworth being escorted home.

The family says they are accepting memorial contributions to Faith Baptist Church Youth or Mission Funds. Hayworth's family also has a GoFundMe to help cover his funeral expenses.

Hayworth's obituary highlights the immense service he'd offered to his country and community in his short 23 years. In his final moments, he was on-duty, actively helping a person who had just been in a crash.

Officer Cody Hagler, who had been training Hayworth, was also seriously injured in the collision. An official said he was being released from the hospital Tuesday. A GoFundMe has been set up to help him and his family on the long and expensive road to recovery from injuries sustained in the crash.

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