Condolences continued to pour into the Ocala Police Department on Monday following Chief Greg Graham’s death Sunday in a plane crash.
The department changed the cover photo on its Facebook page to a photo of Graham with a black band covering the Ocala Police logo. The image also contained a message that read: “Rest in Peace, Chief Greg Graham.”
The department also posted a photo of Graham’s unmarked police vehicle with its roof covered in flowers. The department offered thanks to a local Wal-Mart for the gesture.
Graham died Sunday when his small plane crashed around 11:30 a.m. in an open field in the 9700 block of S.W. 140th Avenue, not far from the Marion County Airport near Dunnellon. Graham was piloting the aircraft and was alone. No one else was injured in the incident, which is being investigated by Major Crimes detectives from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Aviation Administration.
On Sunday, the Ocala Police Department’s Facebook page offered a heartfelt tribute to the fallen chief who had spent the majority of 30-plus-year law enforcement career working in Ocala.
“Chief Graham was a mentor to many and inspirational to all. We have had the great privilege to have called him a friend, a boss, and a part of our family for well over thirty years,” the post read.
It went on to refer to Graham as the “heart” of the police department.
“His heart beat for Ocala, for his community, for his department, and especially for his family. We will miss his passion for community and law enforcement; his candor and personality; his strong leadership; and most definitely his smile. The coming days and weeks will be tough for the Department, but please also keep the Graham family in your thoughts and prayers while still respecting their privacy,” the statement read.
Ocala officers, clearly shaken by the tragedy, paid their respects Sunday when they lined the parking lot of the police department along S. Pine Avenue with their emergency lights flashing as Graham’s body was returned to Ocala from the crash site with a police escort.
Law enforcement agencies from across the state also offered their thoughts and prayers from Graham, who left behind a wife and three children, as well as the entire Ocala Police Department. Those messages of condolences came from many departments, including the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office and the Wildwood Police Department.
Condolences also came from as far away as Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Graham served as police chief from 2008-12 before returning to Ocala to assume to the top job in the department.
“Chief Graham had an immediate impact on the Cedar Rapids Police Department and Cedar Rapids community, helping guide rescue and response efforts to the Flood of 2008 when floodwaters overwhelmed the community…” the department posted Sunday on Facebook. “With a strong focus on community policing, Chief Graham initiated several policing programs including the school resource officer program during his time as Chief in Cedar Rapids.”
An employee of that police department also posted a message to the Ocala Police Department that read, “Brothers and sisters at Ocala PD: We at CRPD are mourning right along with you. We are in shock and sick. Chief Graham was loved by us. Thank you for sharing him with our department. We have your six always.”
Meanwhile, messages from local residents also poured in through Facebook. Some of those included:
- “There are no words that could even begin to express the heartache felt for the family of Chief Graham, or for you, the officers who worked for him. Prayers for strength and of comfort in the days and weeks that follow.” Tracy Sage Belcher
- “You did things for people personally and for the community that many will never know about. We will miss you brother.” Dr. Charles McIntosh
- “To your brothers and sisters in blue, a special prayer that each of you find comfort knowing you had an amazing leader, friend and a man that would always have your back. Carry him in your heart as you continue to protect and serve. Fly high Chief.” Tami Michelle
- “My heart is broken. Chief Graham was an excellent leader.” Julie Pache
- “Rest in heaven sir. Fly with the eagles. Your life mattered.” Julie Bowen
- “He was a great man. Very compassionate and to the point.” George Garner
- “May God wrap his arms around his family, both blood and blue, and give them comfort.” Pamela Tibbetts Terry
- “My mother lives in Ocala and any time there were calls to her house, his department responded with care and compassion. That comes from the top.” Tammy Dupuis-Maynard
- “Embrace every day because you never know if it will be your last. He will be missed.” Gerry Brent
- “Rest in peace Chief Graham. Your watch has ended. Your colleagues will take it from here.” Eileen Reitz