HENDERSON COUNTY, N.C. — Sheriff’s deputies, public safety officers and the Highway Patrol were in the Morganton area Monday afternoon to honor a North Carolina deputy who was killed in the line of duty last week.
Officials said a suspect in a vehicle break-in fatally shot Henderson County Deputy Ryan Hendrix, 35, before the suspect was killed by other officers last Thursday.
“I know the community supports us,” Morganton Public Safety Sgt. Taylor Johnson said Monday. “When something like this happens, it is tragic and I think the majority of the people feel that it is tragic, and they feel with us.”
A father and his two children stopped on an overpass with a flag during Monday’s procession to pay tribute to the deputy. Chance Hensley, who is a firefighter in Buncombe County, was devastated to hear about the loss.
“It’s rough,” he said. "It’s tough on emergency services people. I pray for them every day. I am hoping for peace for his family. "
Sheriff Lowell Griffin said a homeowner had noticed someone breaking into a car around 3 a.m. Thursday.
Griffin said the homeowner yelled at the man, who then shattered a window at the home with a crowbar. Griffin said the man and the homeowner exchanged gunfire after the suspect took a gun from the vehicle and before deputies arrived.
Griffin said the suspect appeared to comply with commands to show deputies his hands before firing once and shooting Hendrix in the face. The sheriff said two other deputies returned fire and that the suspect, identified as Robert Ray Doss Jr., died at the scene.
Hendrix was rushed to Mission Hospital where he later died. He had been with the sheriff’s office since 2012.
In a press release, the sheriff’s office confirmed that Hendrix died at 12:57 p.m.
“Early this morning, while the world slept, Ryan responded to assist a family needing help when they became innocent victims of a violent encounter,” the release read. “We all know the tragic outcome, but Ryan refuses to let the story end there. Even in passing Ryan continues to exemplify a servant’s heart. You see, Ryan was also an organ donor. He will continue to help strangers for a lifetime, even after making the ultimate sacrifice. Ryan’s family wants everyone to know that ‘Ryan was doing the job he was born to do and he died doing the job he loved.’”
Hendrix was a Marine veteran who has two children, a 6-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl. He was engaged to be married next month.
“We are all a family. This, this office, this Sheriff’s Office, the people here, they are, they’re one big family. So, this is a family member that has been critically injured. And, we’re all hurting right now,” said Sheriff Lowell Griffin. “Ryan has been here since 2012, so he’s an 8-year veteran of the department, of the office. And, he has done an outstanding job in every aspect that he served in.”
Griffin said Doss is a career criminal with arrests in Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. At the time of the shooting, Doss was wanted by authorities in South Carolina for a parole violation. His record includes offenses for drugs, multiple larcenies and felony thefts.
Sunday night, hundreds of people gathered outside the sheriff’s office. The crowd was a mix of people Hendrix worked with and the people he and his coworkers worked to protect.
“I get choked up just talking about it,” a member of the community said. “I mean the guy was a young Marine. He served his community.”
Hendrix’s family was at the memorial service and had one wish for those standing with them.
“They said that they hoped that out of this could be a pivotal point for this nation, for this community to truly get behind those that are out here serving us,” Sen. Chuck Edwards said.
A fund has been set up for his family through the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office and the North Carolina Police Benevolent Foundation.
The State Bureau of Investigation and the sheriff’s office are investigating the shooting.