INGHAM COUNTY, Mich. -- A lone picture has hung on the memorial wall at the Ingham County Sheriff's Department since Paul Cole was killed in the line of duty in 1996. Now the department is once again grieving the loss of one of their own.
"He was trying to make a difference," said Sgt. Timothy O'Neill
Sheriff Deputy Grant Whitaker was killed when his squad car hit a tree on a rural Ingham County road early Sunday morning during a chase. He had only been a deputy there for a year and a half, but Sgt. O'Neill says the impact he made on other officers will last a lifetime.
"Never a harsh word, really was when people think of the perfect police officer, really nice guy," Sgt. O'Neill said.
Whitaker was one of five officers who worked the night shift, a group that O'Neill says wasn't just co-workers but a family.
"It was a small group, very close knit," said Sgt. O'Neill. "In fact, over Thanksgiving they put together dinner with some of the state police officers."
Already word of the accident has spread across the country. O'Neill says he has received calls from Canada and as far away as southern part of the United States, a sign he says is a testimony to the man and officer Grant Whitaker was.
"This has rippled through the community, not just locally, but nationally," Sgt. O'Neill said. "He was a good young man. I'm sure we'll honor him in a lot of ways. He'll make our memorial wall."
A Facebook page has been created to encourage residents to leave their lights on December 31 in honor of Deputy Grant Whitaker.