Local News

Wake Deputies, Sheriff Coping With String Of Losses

Posted February 20, 2004 10:01 a.m. EST

— In the past six months, three members of Wake County Sheriff's Office died in the line of duty.

Sheriff Donnie Harrison and some longtime deputies talked about how they are coping with one tragedy after another.

"When that call came out, it was almost like a bad dream. 'Is it really happening to me again?'" Sheriff Donnie Harrison said.

Deputy Mark Tucker, a veteran sheriff's deputy, was shot and killed in an empty field on Feb. 12.

"It's just like losing a family member," Harrison said.

Tucker was the fourth Wake County deputy to die on duty in 71 years -- and the third in recent months.

Two deputies were killed in car accidents:

Phil Owens

in October and

Frank James

in September.

"You wonder why would this happen? But there again, it's the nature of our work and it's just tough," Harrison said.

"It was surreal. I couldn't believe it. I was just in total shock myself," said Lt. David Woodruff, a 25-year member of the Wake County Sheriff's Office. "I've known Mark ever since I've been here. He's been like a brother to me."

For some, like Maj. Don Nagle, the reality of Tucker's death has not yet set in. He said Wake County has had its share of tragedy for many years to come.

"It has happened to us three times in six months -- that's too much. If we could go 30 years without losing another officer, that's what we would hope for," he said.

Harrison said the situation has been a wakeup call for his deputies; it has made them closer, stronger and wiser.

"It puts something there that makes you think the next time you go out. Any call can be the last. That's why we train so much," he said.

"It kind of wakes you up," Woodruff said. "You need to take it to the next level and go that extra step to be safe as possible, even though sometimes there's no way to stop it. You have to do what you can."

For now, all they can do is remember their loss and hope for a more peaceful future.


200 Club of Wake County

helps families who have lost loved ones in the line of duty. The group donated $5,000 to each family of the three fallen deputies. The group said the losses, so close together, have depleted its funds and are asking for help from the public.