At 33, Chad Reed was already a pillar in Dixie County

Sheriff's Capt. Chad Reed, shown here in 2004, was fatally wounded Thursday afternoon in a gunfight with a man accused of killing two elderly women and wounding two others in Hernando County. Reed had served in several high-profile positions in Dixie County, including as director of emergency management and as interim clerk of courts. Most recently he has been spokesman for the Dixie County Sheriff's Office.

File Photo
Published: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 8:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 8:47 p.m.

Dixie County lost a young but veteran leader with the shooting death Thursday of Capt. Chad Reed.

Reed's death also left two little boys without a daddy, a nurse without a husband, and a large extended family without its youngest sibling.

The 33-year-old sheriff's captain was pronounced dead at Shands at the University of Florida shortly after a shootout with a murder suspect in Cross City.

At the time of his death, Reed was the spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, but he had already served in other high-profile leadership positions in the rural, coastal county, including as director of emergency management, and as interim clerk of courts.

Reed's goal of becoming a public servant began at about the same time he started school, family members said.

Reed was only 5 years old when his father, Broward, realized how important it was for the youngest of his five children to be at disaster sites, Broward said during a interview with The Sun five years ago.

Broward Reed, who retired after serving about 26 years as a volunteer firefighter in Steinhatchee, said if he did not take Chad with him on fire and ambulance calls, the boy would follow them on his bicycle.

"It was just easier to let him ride along with me," Broward Reed told The Sun. "By the time he was 10 years old, he could help run the pump on the (fire) truck and get any equipment we needed."

During the same interview, Reed's mother, Faith, recalled that her youngest child completed his 48-hour first-responder course when he was 12 so he would know what to do in an emergency.

By taking EMT classes during his senior year of high school, Reed was able to make the move from volunteer to paid emergency worker in January 1995, five months before he had earned his high school diploma. Later that year, he was hired by Dixie County and within two years was named the county's assistant director of emergency management.

Reed became the youngest person ever appointed to head up a county emergency agency when he took over the agency in Dixie County at age 24.

In 2004, Reed drew praise from Craig Fugate, then director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management and now head of FEMA. When Reed was elected president of the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association, Fugate said it was a significant vote of confidence for Reed's abilities.

"The association is a pretty jaded bunch, so to be elected president shows you that he has the respect of his peers," Fugate said.

Along the way, Reed married Holly, a registered nurse at the county Health Department, and the couple had two sons, C.J. now age 8, and Caden, 5.

On Sept. 18, Reed graduated as a member of the 238th Session of the FBI National Academy. He told The Sun in recent years that at some point in the future, perhaps when Sheriff Dewey Hatcher retired, he planned to run for the office.

Funeral arrangements for Reed are expected to be announced within a day or two.

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