RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Willie Rowe and Donnie Harrison are opponents in November's Wake County sheriff's race. But on dark days like this one, when Deputy Ned Byrd became the first Wake deputy killed in the line of duty in 18 years, Rowe and Harrison were in lockstep in their grief.
"Every member of this department is extended family to me. And when one hurts, we all hurt," Rowe said.
He served 28 years at Wake Sheriff's Office and retired as a major in 2013, overlapping several years with Byrd.
Byrd's career began under Republican Donnie Harrison who served 16 years as Wake Sheriff.
"This has really been hard for me. I hired this gentleman," Harrison said. "To me, it's like losing family."
Both men were struck by the mounting losses among law enforcement. Byrd is the latest casualty in an especially bloody month for sheriff's deputies in our area where six deputies have been shot over the past month.
"I've never seen anything like this in my life," Harrison said.
"It's a dangerous community. People are turning to violent crimes for various reasons," Rowe added.
According to Sheriff Gerald Baker, Byrd was doing a welfare check on a car when he was shot overnight Thursday. He planned to go to a training center nearby to let his dog go out for a run.
"The quality of life begins with public safety and people here know law enforcement is a serious thing. We take it very seriously," Baker said. "You're never prepared for someone who has made their mind up. From someone who's going to try and harm you when you can't see it."
Hours after Byrd was killed, the candidates struck different tones on the question of how the sheriff's office can better combat violent crime.
"Most of the people (in law enforcement) are afraid to do their job because they're afraid anything they do, they're gonna get blamed for it," Harrison said. "We just can't have it. People have got to start showing support (for law enforcement)."
"We have to find a way to reduce these opportunities to commit crimes. And I'm committed to working with our stakeholders to ensure that we make Wake County safer," Rowe said.
Neither candidate wanted to get ahead of investigators by talking too much about the search for the shooter. But they agreed deputies and their agency partners at the city and state level won't rest until the killer is brought to justice.
Back the Blue NC will be holding an event Saturday to raise money to help Wayne County Deputy Sgt, Fishman's family and Wake County deputy Ned Bryd.
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