Baker, LA – Zachary Police Department (ZPD) Reserve Officer Christopher Lawton was murdered in the line of duty on Monday, when he was intentionally struck by a vehicle while he attempted to serve a felony narcotics warrant.
Officer Lawton, who served the ZPD on a part-time, unpaid basis, was also the Deputy Fire Chief of the Zachary Fire Department (ZFD), The Advocate reported.
Officer Lawton, 41, and another ZPD officer were working undercover at approximately 8 p.m., when they spotted a man with active warrants parked in a U-Haul truck in a Walmart parking lot, WAFB reported.
The officers watched Albert Franklin, 33, and his passenger, Ashley Chaney, 30, for several minutes, before they positioned their patrol car behind the truck, WBRZ reported.
As they approached the suspect’s vehicle on foot, Franklin noticed them walking alongside the truck, and began to drive and pinned Officer Lawton between the U-Haul and the metal bars of a shopping cart corral, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Franklin then ran the officer over with the truck, as he fled the parking lot.
“He was pronounced dead … at the scene,” a visibly shaken East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said on Monday night, according to WBRZ. “It’s a tragic loss.”
An anonymous woman in the parking lot told WBRZ that Good Samaritans rushed to help the fallen hero.
“There [was] a lady who used her shirt to try to cover his body and stop the bleeding,” the woman said. “She was crying and I tried to comfort her when I came out here.”
Franklin and Chaney were apprehended approximately 20 minutes later, as they attempted to conceal the truck in another area of town, WAFB reported.
Franklin was charged with first-degree murder, hit-and-run, damage to property, and fugitive from police. Chaney was charged with obstruction of justice, according to WBRZ.
Officer Lawton, a married father of two, joined ZPD as a reserve officer in 2008, The Advocate reported.
He also worked as a volunteer firefighter for two years, before he joined the department full-time in 1998, Zachary Fire Chief Danny Kimble said.
“Chris was a hard worker and a dedicated fireman,” Chief Kimble said. “And a family man, he believed very much in his family.”
“Chris was a leader to the men below him, he was a leader for the fire service,” he continued. “Chris was very dependable, if he told you he was going to do something, you could count on it going to happen.”
On Tuesday morning, Zachary Mayor Sharon Broome ordered that all flags be flown at half-staff through Saturday in honor of the slain officer.
“I am deeply saddened by the tragic death of the Zachary firefighter and policeman who lost his life while bravely serving his community,” Mayor Broome said in a statement, according to WBRZ. “I join all of East Baton Rouge Parish in expressing my gratitude for his service, and offer up prayers for his family, his fellow first responders, and to all those who knew him. Our hearts go out to the Zachary community.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Zachary Police Department Reserve Officer Christopher Lawton, both blood, blue, and red. Godspeed, we will take the watch from here. Thank you for your service.
Officer Christopher Lawton, your life mattered.