Ocala Police Chief Greg Graham will be laid to rest Friday in a funeral that’s expected to draw a large contingent of law enforcement officers from across the globe.
That’s according to Mayor Kent Guinn, who held a somber press conference Friday outside the police department’s headquarters building, where flags were flying at half-staff and Graham’s police vehicle say nearby, covered in flowers provided by a local Wal-Mart and those brought by mourners from across the city.
Graham was killed late Sunday morning when a plane he was piloting crashed in an open field near Dunnellon. He was the only occupant of the plane and no one else was injured in the crash.
Graham’s body is expected to be transported Wednesday morning with a police escort from the Medical Examiner’s office in Leesburg to Hiers-Baxley Funeral Home in Ocala. Ocala officers will block intersections along the route and will be waiting outside police headquarters to salute the chief with their vehicle’s emergency lights flashing.
During the Monday afternoon press conference, Guinn recalled when he contacted Graham in 2012 about returning to the Ocala Police Department as chief after Sam Williams resigned. Graham had risen up through the ranks of the Ocala department and had been serving as chief of police in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for four years.
“He was the man for the job,” said Guinn, who spent the day driving back to Ocala from North Carolina for the press conference. “He’s obviously proven that over the years. He’s done such a great job for our community, not only as chief of police, but just as an all-around great guy for our community.
Guinn said there’s no doubt that many Ocala residents were quite fond of Graham and everything he stood for as chief.
“People love him and he’s going to be missed,” said the mayor, who oversees the police department. “It’s just a real sad time.”
Guinn said he expects to see more than 2,000 law enforcement officers in Ocala for Graham’s funeral on Friday, which tentatively is planned for 10 a.m.
“I’m not law enforcement, but the bond between law enforcement officers around the country is like nothing I’ve ever seen,” said the mayor, who was flanked by acting chief Mike Balken throughout the press conference.
Stay tuned to Ocala-News.com for more information about Graham’s funeral in the days ahead.