ROCKDALE COUNTY, Ga. — An entire community is mourning the death of a 27-year-old Rockdale County sheriff’s deputy.
According to family members and the Sheriff’s Office, investigator John Cole Haynie died Saturday from complications from the flu after a monthlong battle.
Deputies held a special memorial for the investigator Monday.
One by one, they placed flowers and pictures on a patrol car.
“He was more than just an employee to me. He’s family,” Sheriff Eric Levett said.
Everyone Channel 2’s Audrey Washington spoke with at the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office had the same thing to say about the young deputy: He had a smile and an easy kindness that could move hearts and make a friend in just about any situation.
“I can only imagine when he pulled over someone and if someone used profanity towards him or cussed him out, he would just look at them smiling. Everything that he had done, he done with a smile,” Levett said.
Levett said, at first, Haynie, who beat cancer years ago, thought he had a simple cold. Then, that cold got worse.
“We did not expect that this would become deadly,” Levett said.
After Washington learned about Haynie’s death, she did some research. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, in the week of Jan. 12, five people in Georgia died from influenza.
“When you start feeling those symptoms, it’s important we go to the doctor. Often, we self-medicate ourselves,” Levett said.
Now, while family, friends and coworkers grieve, the Sheriff’s Office is using the passing of one of their own to teach others how to protect themselves.
“I think it’s important that we take those precautions, as not as a disrespectful thing because you don’t know who’s feeling ill or who might get ill," Levett said.
Deputies will hold a candlelight vigil Tuesday night. The funeral will held Friday afternoon.
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