Lancaster, SC – Lancaster County Sheriff’s Deputy James Kirk Jr. died in the line of duty on Apr. 24, after he collapsed after a training exercise at the department’s firing range, the agency said.
Deputy Kirk, 57, was rushed to a local hospital, where he later passed away “from what appears to be a medical condition,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
The specific cause of death was not released.
He previously served the Lancaster Police Department for 25 years, and retired at the rank of detective lieutenant in special operations, which was the department’s second-in-command position at the time, The Lancaster News reported.
“James was the most phenomenal investigator I’ve ever seen,” former Lancaster Police Chief Harlean Carter said. “He was very intuitive and had a natural knack for being able to close a case.”
After his retirement, Deputy Kirk joined Lancaster County SO, and spent much of his three years of service working with the public from his front-office post.
“He was very good with people and with kids,” Sheriff Barry Faile said. “A lot of parents would call him when they had personal things going on with their children, just to let him talk to them.”
Deputy Kirk was connected to the local community in a way no one else seemed able to achieve, Lancaster Police Chief Scott Grant said.
“He was constantly being contacted by people,” Chief Grant explained. “If something happened, he was going to hear about it.”
He was also extremely active with youth in the community, and had been the director of the 150-member Lancaster Youth Mass Choir, Chief Carter said.
The choir performed locally, as well as in various surrounding states.
“I started calling him the ‘Pied Piper of Lancaster’ because wherever he went, the kids would follow,” Chief Carter recalled. “They were really drawn to him.”
“Where some of them thought they had no way out, they saw they did. They loved it,” Deputy Kirk said of the choir members in a past interview with The Lancaster News. “Before we sang a song, we looked for Scripture to know what we were singing about.”
In addition to his community involvement, Deputy Kirk was also hailed as a role model, 6th Circuit Solicitor Randy Newman told The Herald.
“James Kirk was a super person, a man so many people looked up to,” Newman said. “He was a legend in law enforcement in Lancaster.”
Deputy Kirk leaves behind his wife, Traci, his daughter, TaQuana KcKinney, three sons, Jacobi Thompson, Antonius Thompson, and Donavan Kirk, and four grandchildren, as well as two brothers and three sisters, according to his obituary.
He will be laid to rest on Monday.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Lancaster County Sheriff’s Deputy James Kirk, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.