Dunnellon, FL – Ocala Police Department (OPD) Chief Greg Graham was killed in a plane crash on Sunday morning.
Chief Graham, who had recently obtained his pilot’s license, was the only person aboard the single-engine Cessna 172 private aircraft, the Ocala Star Banner reported.
The plane crashed into an open field in the 9700-block of Southwest 140th Avenue near the Marion County Airport at approximately 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 25.
“When the first responders arrived, they found the pilot, who was the sole occupant, deceased,” Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said in a Facebook post that afternoon. “We were then shocked and grief-stricken to learn that the pilot was my good friend and mentor, Chief Greg Graham, Chief of the Ocala Police Department.”
No one on the ground was injured, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) told the Ocala Star Banner.
Sheriff Woods, a former OPD officer, said it was a privilege to work alongside Chief Graham, who devoted over 30 years of his life to his law enforcement career.
“Right now, we don’t have all the answers as to what exactly happened. Investigators will be working on that in the coming days,” the sheriff wrote.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and MCSO are handling the ongoing investigation into the cause of the fatal crash, the Ocala Star Banner reported.
Sheriff Woods said that the fantastic relationship between MCSO and OPD “began at the top.”
“I consider Greg a great, personal friend. We call the Ocala Police our brothers and sisters and I can tell you that this family will hurt together,” he wrote. “This tragedy has affected all of us and the ripple effects of such a sudden tragedy will be felt across both agencies.”
Chief Graham was a highly-respected law enforcement leader whose “dedication to his community was never questioned,” the sheriff noted.
“He loved being the Ocala Police Chief. He loved Ocala and Ocala loved him back,” Sheriff Woods said. “He will be missed by so many that he has affected….myself included.”
Chief Graham served with OPD for many years, to include a brief stint as interim chief in 2003, the Ocala Star Banner reported.
He accepted a position as chief of the Cedar Rapids Police Department in Iowa in 2008, but returned to OPD to serve at the helm of the department in January of 2012.
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we grieve our leader, Chief Greg Graham,” OPD said in a Facebook post. “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.”
OPD said Chief Graham was the “heart of the Department.”
“His heart beat for Ocala, for his community, for his department, and especially for his family,” the post read. “We will miss his passion for community and law enforcement; his candor and personality; his strong leadership; and most definitely his smile.”
Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn said he was thankful for Chief Graham and the difference he made in the community, the Ocala Star Banner reported.
“His leadership was responsible for changing the direction of the department,” Guinn said. “I couldn’t have asked for anybody better.”
Chief Graham leaves behind his wife, Amy, as well as his children, according to the OPD.
“To Amy and the kids- Please accept our deepest condolences for your family’s loss. May you be comforted by the outpouring of love surrounding you,” the department said. “Words cannot even begin to express our sorrow. May your heart and soul find peace and comfort during this time. We are here for you always.”
Chief Graham will be laid to rest on Friday, the Ocala Star Banner reported.
We join the Ocala Police Department and our entire community in mourning the passing of Chief Greg Graham. Chief Graham was a leader with a true servant’s heart and will be greatly missed. pic.twitter.com/c15byAP6Mg
— PEFMC (@pefmc) October 27, 2020
— Ezzy Castro (@EzzyCastro) October 27, 2020
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Ocala Chief of Police Greg Graham (and former Chief of Police @CR_Police) and the men and women of the @ocalapd. May he rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/SeshAyXEVY
— LinnCountySheriff (@LinnIASheriff) October 26, 2020
With heavy hearts we are sad to say that the Chief of the Ocala Police, Greg Graham, passed away Sunday morning. His family, friends, and coworkers are in our thoughts. He was a well respected man around Ocala and he will be missed. @ocalapd @FHS_WildcatLife pic.twitter.com/wAIGace5Ey
— @fhs_wcat (@fhs_wcat) October 26, 2020
— Julia Laude (@JuliaMaeLaude) October 26, 2020
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Ocala Police Department (OPD) Chief Greg Graham, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.