Tarboro officer killed in crash honored at visitation, funeral - WNCN: News, Weather

Tarboro officer killed in crash honored at visitation, funeral

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TARBORO, N.C. - The Tarboro Police Department honored one of their own Friday with a visitation and funeral.

Officer Charles Johnson was off-duty when a DOT truck crashed into his van on Tuesday.

A state Department of Transportation truck driver was charged Thursday in connection with the accident. 29-year-old William Harrell II was charged with driving left of center and misdemeanor death by motor vehicle.

Officer Charles Johnson was driving westbound on NC Highway 111 Tuesday morning when a DOT excavator truck driven by Harrell crossed the center line and collided head-on with Johnson's Honda Odyssey. The 46-year-old Johnson had served 24 years with the Tarboro Police Department.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the driver who died in this tragic accident and with our employee who was involved. Safety is always the number one priority in everything we do. Our team will work closely with law enforcement to investigate and thoroughly review all of our safety procedures to understand how this happened and what steps we can take to prevent something like this from happening again," said NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata.

A heartbroken community remembered Johnson following the accident.

"Everybody knew him and a lot of people knew him as Robocop," said Lacey Heath.  Heath and her husband live in Tarboro spoke with Officer Johnson often.  "You could tell he was strict. If you walk up to him, he always had a straight face. But as soon as you started talking to him, he had a smile and it never ended,” said Heath. "I’d go to Piggly Wiggly, he'd be there. I'd go to Abram’s to get something to eat he'd be there. You'd walk in and he'd be like 'hey, how are you doing?' If he knew you by name, then he'd always speak to you."

Those are the memories community members will hold in their hearts.

"He was fairly tall and stood straight up and his uniform was always perfectly aligned,” remembered Tarboro Police Chief Damon Williams. “That was just Charles."

"Police officers are people too but they also hold a very special place in your heart. They're a very tight fit group,” said the Tarboro Police Dept. telecommunicator and reference clerk. “They're there for each other when someone has fallen or someone is hurt. But they're still every day people."

They’re every day people who make the community a better and safer place to live.

"Charles was dedicated to serving this town,” said Tarboro Lieutenant Keith Hale. “He worked here his entire career and probably could have gone on to work somewhere else."

Yet, Officer Johnson loved Tarboro and wanted to raise his family there. He leaves behind a wife and two sons who are both in middle school.

"Our long-term mission is to continue to support his family because they are our family as well," said Chief Williams.

The Chief says Johnson was an essential member of the Tarboro community and had a passion for life, which is something evident to all who knew him.

"He was definitely one of Tarboro's finest,” said Heath. “He’ll truly be missed by the whole community.”

In lieu of flowers, a trust fund has been set up at Providence Bank, 325 N. Main St. (PO Box 339) Tarboro, NC. All donations will go to Johnson’s wife and two children.
 
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