Hundreds mourn slain Dixie County Sheriff's captain

Honor Guards watch over the American flag draped casket of fallen Dixie County Sheriff Officer Captain Chad Reed during his funeral at the First Baptist Church of Cross City Sunday afternoon.

Brad McClenny / Special to the Sun
Published: Monday, January 18, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 11:54 p.m.

CROSS CITY - A mile-long line of squad cars from as far away as the Florida Keys rolled four abreast and bumper-to-bumper down U.S. 19 Sunday afternoon as Dixie County said goodbye to Sheriff's Capt. Chad Reed.

The 33-year-old was gunned down by a double-murder suspect Thursday afternoon outside a gas station. Throughout Reed's standing-room-only funeral, his death in the line of duty was portrayed as a selfless act that was an extension of his entire career and the result of his deep religious beliefs.

"In a brief moment, without opening his Bible or announcing his text, Chad Reed presented the greatest sermon on life that Dixie County will ever hear," said Mike Brown, pastor of First Baptist Church of Cross City. Brown then reminded the mourners that in the Bible's 15th chapter and 13th verse of the Book of John is the statement: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

"Late Thursday a violent and destructive evil made a stop in our county," Brown said. "Capt. Reed and his fellow officers stood between us and that great evil. He (Reed) lay down his life for you and for me - for us."

The man accused of firing the fatal shot, John Kalisz, 55, survived with five gunshot wounds, the result of 11 shots fired at him by three other deputies. Kalisz remained hospitalized at Shands at the University of Florida on Sunday afternoon.

Reed's casket was sitting in about the same place he stood 12 years ago when he married Holly Chewning and was very near the place in the church where he brought each of his newborn sons to be dedicated to Christ.

Brown said Reed was an apprentice deacon at the church who recently attended a meeting where each man was asked to share his most memorable experience of 2009. Several of the men were expecting Reed to mention his graduation from the FBI National Academy in September, but instead he talked about the baptism of his 8-year-old son, Chad Allen "C.J." Reed Jr.

According to Brown, Reed noted his oldest son's baptism because he felt assured that he would one day see his son in heaven.

Some of Brown's recollections of Reed's life drew laughs from the hundreds packed into the sanctuary, especially Reed's proclivity for organization and planning.

"If Chad were directing this service, he would make sure I could clearly state my objectives," Brown said.

Brown also recalled for the mourners some of the details of Chad's life that his widow Holly relayed to The Sun earlier in the weekend.

Holly said she first met Chad when they were both in elementary school attending a softball game that their older sisters were playing in.

The couple met again in March 1993 during the Storm of the Century while both were teens. Holly, then a high school junior, was volunteering with her mother at an evacuation site when she noticed Chad, who was helping families who had been evacuated in the middle of the night as their homes were flooding.

What caught Holly's interest was recognizing what Chad was truly interested in - helping other people.

"There were not that many 16-year-old boys spending their Friday nights on a volunteer fire truck," Holly said. "He was really donating his time, and he really cared about people."

Chad's concern about others and his attention to detail helped him quickly rise to the position of the county's emergency services manager. Holly said his dedication to his job sometimes cut into time with his family. In September 2004, during the record-setting hurricane season, Holly went into labor with the couple's second son, Caden. Her contractions were seven minutes apart while she waited in the emergency operations center for Chad to hand off his duties to other staff members and get her to a Gainesville hospital, which was an hour's drive way.

"I about had that baby right there," Holly said.

Chad's dedication to his community was mentioned repeatedly during his funeral.

On the day that she planned the service for her husband, Holly said she knew when she married him that he was "an adrenaline junkie" who would willingly put himself in harm's way.

"He and I had conversations that this (death in the line of duty) could happen at any time," Holly said. "I just wish it hadn't happened. At any time."

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