The flag in front of the Columbia County Detention Center flew at half-staff on Thursday - one day after one of the officers who once helped run the center died in a car accident.
Gary Palmer, 64, retired from the department in January of this year after serving his country in Vietnam twice, working for Grovetown Public Safety, MCG Public Safety and the Sheriff's Office for 18 years.
Columbia County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said Mr. Palmer was traveling east on Columbia Road just past Belair Road when he apparently lost control of his truck, crossed over two eastbound lanes, hit a ditch and traveled for approximately 100 yards, flipping. Mr. Palmer was thrown from the vehicle.
Officials suspect Mr. Palmer may have had a medical attack while driving.
Hours after the accident, one of his closest friends spoke about the man who spent his life serving people.
"He was gruff and a lot of people were scared of him," Maj. John Wheeler said. "But he was the most helpful person you'd ever meet and we all loved him."
Palmer began his career with the department in 1984 as a patrol deputy and quickly became a Sargent before moving to the detention center.
In 1996, Wheeler, then a Captain, joined Palmer in the detention center and the two got to work.
"He really helped me get that place moving in the right directions," Maj. Wheeler said.
A year after Wheeler's arrival, Palmer was promoted to Lieutenant First Class and moved to Criminal Investigations Unit, where he would eventually retire.
"Other than vice and narcotics, he's done just about everything you can do at this sheriff's office," Maj. Wheeler said. "It was hard on me when he went to CID."
Palmer's list of achievements at the department include assisting with the conceptual design of the maximum security pod of the new detention center.
Maj. Wheeler said Palmer spent a lot of time going to jails throughout the area to research possible designs and find potential flaws.
Though Palmer's influence on the department will be felt for several years to come, Maj. Wheeler said, the influence on the community he served will never be forgotten.
"He gave his entire life to serving people," Maj. Wheeler said. "He was a great public servent."
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