When a law enforcement officer dies in the line of duty, it’s not just their family and friends who mourn. The death of an officer has a widespread impact. The entire community mourns, as do public safety agencies across the county, state and country.
In November 2021, Jackson County mourned the loss a sheriff’s deputy, Lena Nicole Marshall, who was shot and killed in the line of duty during a domestic call.
Marshall is one of a handful of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty in Jackson County. Others on that list are Statham constable L.C. "Lud" Thurmond, Statham Town Marshal James “Jim” Hammond, Sheriff Clifford David Barber, Center Marshal Fred Crawford, Solicitor General Floyd Hoard, Pendergrass police officer Christopher Lee Ruse, Deputy Edward Monroe “Eddie Roe” Evans, Braselton Sgt. Todd Helcher and Deputy Steven LaCruz Thomas.
For their sacrifices to the community, the 2021 Newsmakers of the Year are: Fallen deputy Lena Nicole Marshall and all of the county’s fallen officers.
FALLEN DEPUTY MARSHALL
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a domestic call around 9:20 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. A homeowner wanted a non-resident out of the Hwy. 124 residence.
When deputies arrived, they made contact with a woman, Jessica Worsham, at the front door and she pulled a firearm and pointed it at the deputies. She was ordered to put down the weapon, but fired on the deputies, striking Deputy Marshall.
The second deputy, Zac Billings, returned fire, striking and killing Worsham.
Deputy Marshall was taken to a local trauma center, where she died from her injuries on Monday, Nov. 8.
The outpouring of condolences and memorials came quickly and intensely.
Flags were lowered to half-mast across Jackson County. Public safety agencies and community members posted memorials on social media with Marshall’s badge number, #4163.
Deputy Marshall’s patrol car was parked outside the JCSO office and was covered in balloons, flowers, cards and stuffed animals by the end of the week.
On the day of her funeral, Monday, Nov. 15, a stream of blue spanning 16 miles traveled across the county. Hundreds of public safety vehicles from agencies across the state were part of the processional, which lasted about 30 minutes from start to finish. The processional was so long that it had to be paused in Braselton to allow time for the North Carolina Caisson Unit to transport Marshall’s body to the funeral home.
Community members lined the route, which stretched from Jefferson to Braselton. Many held “Back the Blue” signs and memorials to Marshall.
Deputy Marshall’s law enforcement career spanned over a decade. She began working for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in 2020, but had previously worked for the Barrow County Sheriff’s Office, Winder Police Department, Helen Police Department and Habersham County Sheriff’s Office.
During her tenure at Jackson County, Marshall worked across various zones and always worked the night shift. She also served as a field-training officer.
Throughout the funeral services, Marshall was remembered as a hero with a servant’s heart.
Jackson County Sheriff Janis Mangum said that Marshall was doing what she loved and protecting the people of Jackson County.
“That is what law enforcement of officers do. While others are in the safety of their home, there are brave men and women who are protecting you in every minute of every day,” Mangum said.
Mangum also touched on the magnitude of the Marshall’s death and the impact it had on the department.
“On Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, at approximately 9:20 p.m., the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office was changed forever," she said. “Deputy Lena Marshall and Deputy Zac Billings responded to a domestic call. The worst thing that could possibly happen did happen.”
Other speakers gave insight into who Marshall was outside of police work.
Marshall’s friend, Lauren Stephens, said she was “so much more than the uniform that she wore.”
“If you don’t have a friend like her, you’ve gotta find one,” Stephens said. “You’ll only need one. Trust me.”
Stephens also spoke about Marshall’s love for her children, Chelsey, Colten, Kiley and Austin (Austin died several years ago, also on Nov. 8).
Stephens and Rob Peladeau also spoke on Marshall's authenticity and toughness, as well as her love for Jack Daniels and cigarettes. Peladeau described Marshall as a “legendary” and a hero in life and in her passing.
“She was a hero, not only to this community, but even in her passing,” he said, noting that Marshall’s organs helped several other people.
The two encouraged funeral attendees to honor Marshall's memory by living more like she did.
“If you loved Nicole, or just even respected her, the best way that we can honor her is to live life as unapologetically real as we can and as she did,” said Stephens. “Live your life, wholly. Tell people that you love them. Tell them so much it’s weird. Take pictures of everything. Talk to random strangers. Do the things you’re scared to do. Do the hard things. Make your life the best story in the world and don’t waste it. She never wasted a drop and we’re all better because of it.”
OTHER FALLEN OFFICERS
•Statham constable L.C. "Lud" Thurmond, End of Watch: Dec. 13, 1897 — Thurmond had arrested Green Arnold and while awaiting a court hearing, a street fight took place between Thurmond, his brother, another man and Arnold. Arnold shot Thurmond during the fight, killing him, but he was later acquitted by a Jackson County jury. Arnold was a local moonshiner and was later convicted in 1905 of selling liquor, but was pardoned by the governor after an unusual event. Two of the Jackson County chain-gang guards had gotten into a fight and one shot the other, then ran away. It was dark and Arnold used a knife to keep 25 chain-gang prisoners from escaping — in the darkness, they thought he was holding a pistol, not a knife. Arnold vowed to give up the liquor business and was released on an order from the governor.
•Statham town marshal James "Jim" Hammond, End of Watch: Feb. 1, 1907 — Hammond was shot and killed by Will Bolton. Bolton had gone from Athens to Statham by train and was drunk, officials said. He left the train and was on the tracks when Hammond approached him. Bolton pulled a pistol and shot Hammond twice, killing him. He fled the scene and was arrested the next day at his brother-in-law's house in Statham. He was later convicted of voluntary manslaughter and not murder because Hammond didn't have a warrant to arrest Bolton at the time of the incident.
•Sheriff Clifford David Barber, End of watch: Jan. 19, 1919 — Cliff Barber hadn’t served as sheriff very long when he was killed. Barber, who hailed from Commerce, defeated popular sheriff Ben Collier by just 19 votes in the 1916 election.In the late fall of 1918, Barber was one of those in Jackson County who got the flu during the terrible pandemic which killed millions around the world. Barber survived and had just returned to work in January 1919. But his path would soon cross that of a young Hollis Landers. Landers, a local farm boy, had deserted from the military and returned to Jackson County. WWI had ended in November 1918 and a lot of soldiers were deserting their posts.
Rather than laying low as many deserters did, Landers put a target on his back by stealing a car. When the car got stuck near Lawrenceville, Landers abandoned it and returned to Jackson County.
Sheriff Barber had a warrant for Landers on the car theft charge and went to a house on the Jefferson-Winder road late on the night of January 19, 1919, to arrest him. Barber went to the back door while a deputy went to the front door and called for Landers to come out.
But Landers had other ideas and ran out the back door, where he struggled with Barber, who tried to stop him. Landers pulled a gun, a .38 caliber military pistol, during the struggle and shot Barber twice, once in the leg and once in the jaw, killing him instantly. The deputy ran to the back of the house and fired at Landers, but the killer escaped into the night. He was wearing part of his military uniform at the time of the shooting. (Reports vary about what branch of service Landers had deserted.)
The following day, Landers was captured in Hall County while attempting to board a train. He was taken to an Athens jail for safekeeping (probably to avoid being lynched in Jackson County.)
An Atlanta newspaper quoted Landers as being sorry for having shot Barber.
“I didn’t mean to kill Mr. Barber, but in the struggle between us, I drew my gun and shot. Why I did it I don’t know.”
Three other people were also arrested after Landers was caught. Landers’ father, Wes Landers, was charged with helping his son flee after the shooting and the owner of the house where the shooting took place and his son were charged with harboring a deserter.
A special term of court was called in April 1919 where Landers was quickly convicted of the killing and sentenced to hang. But the hanging would have to wait as Landers’ lawyers filed multiple appeals on his behalf. The case went twice before the Georgia Supreme Court where Landers sought a new trial. Among other technical issues, Landers’ lawyers claimed that the foreman of the jury had said in the jury room that if they didn’t convict Landers, he would be lynched.
As the case dragged through appeals, the governor gave Landers several reprieves from being hanged. A petition with 300 names was sent to the governor asking that Landers’ sentence be commuted to life in prison rather than hanging. But the state prison commission twice turned down the idea of commuting his sentence.
By May 1920, Landers’ legal appeals had run their course. As a crowd gathered at the county courthouse on May 7, 1920, Landers was brought from Athens to the Jackson County jail. There, with only a few witnesses, he was hung. The following day, he was buried in the Walnut Fork church graveyard. He was 21-years-old.
Sheriff Barber was buried in Grey Hill Cemetery in Commerce. He was 38-years-old at the time of his death. His widow, Augusta Rivers Carson Barber, lived to age 90 and died in 1968. They had no children.
•Center marshal Fred Crawford, End of Watch: Nov. 12, 1922 — Three men from White County drove to the town of Center in Southern Jackson County one Sunday morning. Driving a Ford touring car, the three stopped at at the Presbyterian Church and created a disturbance. Center town Marshal Fred Crawford, age 35, went to the church to quell the uproar (the men were reportedly drunk and looking for a local woman). According to news articles from that time, Crawford stood on the men’s car running board as he “escorted” the three to the town jail to make bond. But one of the men hit him over the head with an iron pipe. Crawford fell from the car and died later that day of a fractured skull. Two of the three men were later caught and officers said they believe they had been hauling moonshine from White County at the time of the murder. One of the three, Will Glaze, was later convicted of murder.
•Maysville police chief Ed Sims, End of Watch: Jan. 10, 1924 — Sims was gunned down on the streets of Maysville while trying to serve a warrant on Acey Burroughs. Burroughs' son, Rudez Burroughs, shot Sims hitting him in the jugular vein. As he fell, Sims fired back, hitting Rudez Burroughs. Burroughs was taken first to the Banks County Jail and then to a hospital in Gainesville where he died from his wound. The shooting was reportedly the result of a long, ongoing feud between Sims and the Burroughs.
•Solicitor General Floyd Hoard, End of watch: Aug. 7, 1967 — Solicitor general Floy Hoard was murdered when his car was blown up at his home near Jefferson on the morning of Aug. 7, 1967. Hoard had been a crusader against local liquor and moonshine operations in the Piedmont Judicial Circuit. Four men were later convicted of his murder, which stemmed from a Pendergrass bootlegging operation Hoard had raided earlier in the year.
•Deputy Edward Monroe Evans, End of watch: Nov. 4, 1994 — Deputy Edward "Eddie" Roe Evans was killed in a wreck after stopping two vehicles for speeding on I-85 near the Hwy. 60 overpass. He was struck by a vehicle while walking back to his patrol car. Evans was remembered by the community and colleagues as someone who "went above and beyond" and who showed professionalism during his career. "He took a part of us with him," said then Sheriff Stan Evans. "But a piece of him stays with us, too."
•Pendergrass police officer Christopher Lee Ruse, End of watch: Dec. 29, 2004 — Ruse, who was 45 years old, was shot after a pursuit on Hwy. 129. The vehicle involved in the pursuit wrecked and as Ruse approached the vehicle, a shootout took place and he was struck in the chest and head according to previous coverage in The Jackson Herald. Ruse returned fire, striking the suspected shooter in the leg. Following his death, Ruse was remembered for his optimism and “servant’s heart.” Ruse was also active with Boy Scouts of America and members of his troop were among those to give tributes during funeral services at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Ruse previously served in both the Army and Marines. He worked for the Winder Police Department for 12 years and the Arcade Police Department before joining the Pendergrass Police Department.
•Braselton Sgt. Todd Helcher, End of watch: July 25, 2005 – Sgt. Helcher was killed in a car accident on Hwy. 365 on his way home from work. Helcher had joined the Braselton Police Department in March 2004. Following his death, Helcher was remembered for his love for family and his love for his job. "You can fill the slot, but you're not going to be able to replace him," Braselton Police Chief Terry Esco said at the time.
•Jackson County sheriff’s deputy Steven LaCruz Thomas, End of Watch: May 21, 2014 — Deputy Thomas was killed in a car crash on May 21, 2014, while he was working part-time for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. He was a full-time deputy with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, where he had worked for about five years. He worked in the jail before being certified and promoted to road deputy in 2011. Thomas, who was 26 years old, was also a volunteer firefighter and the son of the Franklin County sheriff.
*(Footnote: Although the events didn't happen in Jackson County, former Jackson Countian J.M.B. Brooks, a constable of Clay County, Texas, was gunned down by a group of cowboys on Nov. 24, 1879. Brooks was born in Jackson County in 1848. He was among Brooks family member who migrated to Texas following the Civil War.)