‘He’s done such a great job for our community:’ Ocala mayor reacts to death of police chief

Greg Graham died Sunday in Marion County plane crash

OCALA, Fla. – Ocala Police Chief Greg Graham died Sunday morning in a plane crash, according to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn said Graham will be missed.

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“He’s done such a great job for our community,” Guinn said.

Guinn was in North Carolina when he heard the news.

The Sheriff’s Office said the crash happened around 11:30 a.m. Sunday in the 9700 block of Southwest 140th Avenue near Dunnellon. The crash happened near the Marion County Airport.

Graham has led the police department since 2012 but his career with the department dates back to the 1980s.

So many people are devastated as the investigation into what happened continues.

“He loved Ocala and Ocala loved him,” said Sheriff Billy Woods.

Marion County Sheriff’s Office officials said the plane was Graham’s personal aircraft and he was the only person onboard the single-engine plane. The Ocala Star-Banner reports Graham recently obtained his pilot’s license.

Right now, as federal investigators work to find out how the crash happened, Graham’s colleagues and friends are trying to recall the happy times.

Condolences for Graham’s family and law enforcement family alike began pouring on Sunday afternoon following the tragic news.

“Our prayers go out to the Graham family and friends and those at the Ocala Police Department on the tragic lost of Ocala Police Chief Greg Graham in a small plane crash this morning,” Marion County Fire Rescue said in a Facebook post.

Ocala Police Department Deputy Chief Mike Balkin called Graham “one of the greatest lawman I’ve ever known.”

“He was a true mentor, a true leader (and) a forward-thinking professional,” Balkin said.

The crash is being investigated by the Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Aviation Administration.

“This tragedy has affected all of us and the ripple effects of such a sudden tragedy will be felt across felt across both of our agencies,” said Woods, who called Graham a “friend and a mentor."

Flying and parachuting were two of Graham’s passions, Woods said.

“If there’s any peace, he left doing something that he enjoyed and he’s with the good Lord now,” Woods said.'

On Monday, Ocala Police Department Public Information Officer Corie Byrd said members of the agency are leaning on each other during this difficult time.

“Pretty somber department today but you know we are still together and talking to each other and just trying to cope with this,” Byrd said.

Byrd said officers will continue to serve the people of Ocala in Graham’s honor.

“We are going to get through this and we will remain serving and protecting,” Byrd said. “This isn’t going to stop us from doing what we need to do, Chief Graham’s thing was do the right thing and protecting and carrying on is the right thing.”

Guinn said Chief Balken will be the interim Chief until further notice. Graham’s funeral is set for 10 a.m. Friday.

“There are going to be at least 2,000 officers, probably more. I’m sure from all over the country, if not the world that are going to come to this funeral,” Guinn said.

Carol Rembert said she could not believe it when she heard the news.

“I lost my breath for a second and I said Lord oh no not Graham," Rembert said.

About the Authors:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.