LONG CO., Ga. (WTOC) - A Long County deputy was killed early Thursday morning while assisting in a vehicle pursuit.
According to Coastal News Service and Long County Sheriff Craig Nobles, a deputy who was assisting in a vehicle pursuit on Highway 57, about a mile from Tibet Road, was killed when his vehicle left the roadway.
GSP said the pursuit began in Ludowici around 3 a.m. when a Ludowici officer spotted a motorist running stop signs in the city. The officer began to pursue the driver on Highway 57 in the direction of McIntosh County.
The Long County deputy, identified as Sheldon Whiteman via the Coastal News Service, had just joined the chase when he apparently lost control of his vehicle and crashed into the wood line. According to Sheriff Nobles, Whiteman’s car traveled an estimated 100 feet before coming to a stop.
Whiteman was transported to Liberty Regional Medical Center in Hinesville where he died from his injuries. According to Sheriff Nobles, Whiteman had been with the sheriff’s office for four months. He was previously a deputy in Chatham County.
“It’s just unfortunate that this happens when people fail to stop for law enforcement and anytime anyone loses their life in the law enforcement field, it’s a tragedy and it’s just a bad thing for the county of Long County today,” said Capt. Thornell King, Troop Commander of Georgia State Patrol.
The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office released the following statement on Whiteman’s death:
“The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office was saddened to hear that one of our former employees passed this morning while performing his duties as a law enforcement officer for the Long County Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Sheriff Sheldon Whiteman worked for our Office approximately 4 years, leaving in September, 2019. He is fondly remembered by this Office as a friendly, hard-working, and all around good person. Our prayers are with his family.”
“Someone called my captain and I just happened to be in the office speaking with her and when she said Whiteman was in an accident and I said, Sheldon? and she said yeah. I was like, wow, you know? And I just had to get up and like, walk away real quickly to try and keep composure, but that was my brother. That was my brother,” said Sgt. Julius Johnson, Chatham County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Nobles says these types of dangerous situations come with the badge and he’s honored to have known someone dedicated to serving and protecting his community.
“I’m grateful for men and women who meet the task of being in law enforcement. They do an outstanding job. We train hard. We work hard and we take our job seriously," he said.
Authorities believe the suspect’s vehicle was located on Gobbler Lane in McIntosh County. They were led to this location when a street sign bearing was found knocked down and tire imprints leading to the damage was discovered.
Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes said the department’s tracking dog Charlie was able to pick up the suspects scent inside a nearby wood line but the scent ended on a dirt road where Sikes said it is believed the suspect may have been picked up by someone.
The homeowner of the home where the car was found said he was asleep when everything went down. He didn’t hear a car drive into his driveway until he stepped outside and saw a random car in the back.
GBI is also involved in the investigation. According to GBI Special Agent in Charge Stacy Carson, the agency is trying to determined who the suspect is and what their culpability is in the accident.
As of right now no arrests have been made. But Sheriff Craig Nobles wants to assure the community local agencies are working hard to find the suspect.
They are working that investigation and we’re seeking to arrest. Find and arrest this suspect," he said.
Whiteman’s body was taken from the Pooler GBI Crime Lab to Howard’s Funeral home. A police escort was provided as Whiteman returned to Ludowici.
The Long County Sheriff’s Office has put up a thin blue line over the office sign and someone came by to drop off flowers.
The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office confirms the 200 Club will be taking care of all of Whiteman’s funeral expenses.
A woman who has been planning a 5K in May to honor every fallen officer in the state says the race will now include Deputy Whiteman.
Brandi Matchett, a Long County resident, says those in law enforcement walk into work every day not knowing what may happen. Coming together as a community is how they can thank them.
“They also do events for us too, for the community like through the rec department and all that. So why not give back to them and show the support? It’s really important to show them that we care about what they do for our community,” said Matchett.
Other law enforcement agencies are sharing their condolences on social media, including Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter and the Tybee Island Police Department.
And it isn’t just local and state law enforcement. Police from North Carolina, Arizona, and California are also honoring the deputy on social media.
According to Howard Funeral Home, visitation will be held Friday at 5 p.m. Funeral services will be held the following day at 11 a.m. Both the visitation and the service will be held at the Long County High School gym. Those wishing to attend are asked to wear blue in honor of Deputy Whiteman.
*The Coastal News Service contributed to this report.