Thousands gather to say goodbye to Deputy James D. Paugh

Though it felt as though the whole world was inside the church with the casket saying goodbye, Deputy Shane Bailey was outside on a driveway polishing a motorcycle riddled with bullet holes.


He rubbed a yellow cloth across the bike’s cracked windshield, the hole in the front fender and the spot in the cylinder where a bullet bent the metal.

Deputy James D. Paugh liked to keep his bike dirty, as a working bike, but on Thursday Bailey wanted it sparkling for the thousands who came to say goodbye.

Bailey prepared the motorcycle for its ride at the front of the funeral procession, before it would lead a line of thousands of people from the church to Paugh’s final resting place.

“If this makes any sense, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but it is an honor to do,” said Bailey, his voice and hand shaking.

Paugh gave his life while protecting the public, and on Thursday those he served and those he never met lined the streets surrounding First Baptist Church of Augusta for his funeral procession.

Mainlyin silence, saddened people waved American flags and held homemade signs to support Paugh’s family and law enforcement personnel.

“It’s somber. Such a tragedy, and I think this entire city is grieving this loss,” said Lois Hayes, who was standing on Walton Way Extension.

Uniformed police from as far as New York, Washington, Oklahoma and Texas traveled to pay respects to Paugh and his family, Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said.

Before the funeral began, they joined in semicircles on the church’s grassy front lawn, with bikers in jeans and bandanas, children, parents, law enforcement officers, soldiers – different walks of life but sharing the same mourning.

“It’s definitely a fraternity that during these times we try to stick together and support each other,” said Lt. Kevin Brown, of the DeKalb County (Ga.) Police Honor Guard.

Outside the church, friends Heather Clark and Stephanie Smith talked about how Saturdays would never be the same with Paugh gone.

Every Saturday night, without fail, Paugh would visit them during their shift at Chick-fil-A and take them handfuls of chocolate bars to brighten their night.

“He’d be patrolling, and he’d just come in to check on us and make us smile,” Clark said. “He was always joking. If you were in a bad mood, by the time he’d leave you wouldn’t be at all.”

When the church service was over and before the funeral procession arrived at the Hillcrest Memorial Park on Deans Bridge Road, Amanda Creech straightened wreaths around the burial site and waited.

Creech’s husband is a Richmond County Sheriff’s Office motorcycle deputy, in the same unit and facing the same dangers as Paugh.

As she waited for the ceremony, she said she couldn’t help but think about how it could have been her under the family’s tent.

“There’s always the thought in the back of your mind, ‘What if they don’t come home, or what if someone knocks on the door and it’s the chaplain?’ ” Creech said. “But you can’t live in that fear, because it would ruin your life. J.D. gave his life, and I know my husband would have done the same thing. It’s more than their job. It’s who they are.”

When the procession arrived, an elegant carriage pulled by two black horses carried Paugh’s body to the burial site.

Thousands of law enforcement officers and mourners blanketed the cemetery’s grass and bowed their heads or stood at attention.

Just two weeks before, Paugh had taken aside Deputy Brad Rogers, an officer starting his fourth month on the motorcycle unit, and given him the advice of a father.

“He told me where to stand, what to look for while patrolling, what not to do; that’s just the way he was,” Rogers said.

Rogers stood beside fellow officers and listened to First Baptist Church Pastor Rodger Murchison try to take some of his pain away.

“(God) has come, and he has received J.D.,” Murchison said. “We say goodbye to his body, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, but we know his soul is with the Lord.”

Until then, most of the crowd kept their tears hushed and their pain silent. When an officer’s voice came through speakers to dismiss Paugh’s call signal, though, it released a flood of tears, cries and sobs from men and women in the crowd.

“Dispatch to J.D. Paugh,” the voice said. “His job here is done, but never forgotten.”


What people are saying about Richmond County sheriff’s Deputy James D. Paugh:

• “It’s a fitting tribute to a hero. A tribute to someone who went up and above his call of duty to give honor where honor is due.” – Tim Pendrey, of Augusta

• “These people put their lives on the line for us every day, and sometimes they pay the ultimate price.”
– David Shrecken­gost, of the Patriot Guard Riders from Stockbridge, Ga.

• “Alive or dead, people who protect others’ lives are heroes.” – Jamie Hunter, of Augusta

• “All of these are family members. We’re all brothers and sisters out here. We’re not separate agencies. It’s one agency. That’s it.” – Richmond County Board of Education officer Andre Jenkins