A Georgia state flag outside the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office remained at half-staff Monday morning as the department continued its mourning for three employees.
In just five days the office lost a beloved investigator, a dedicated deputy and a well-respected retiree, to three separate incidents that Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton said came as a shock to all.
The sheriff’s office lost two to heart attacks, Deputy James M. Wallace, 61 and retired deputy Herbert “Rusty” Tordoff, 54. Two days earlier, Investigator Christian Gandy, 31, was killed in an off-duty traffic accident when his motorcycle struck a deer.
“You can definitely feel it around the agency right now,” Clayton said regarding the recent deaths Monday afternoon. “When we lose someone, whatever the circumstance, it always has an impact on everybody around.”
Wallace suffered a heart attack during an annual physical assessment, which was implemented after Sheriff Richard Roundtree took office in 2013 as a requirement for all sworn officers to help the office monitor fitness levels of its employees and to give employees an idea of their weaknesses and strengths.
Clayton said officers are required to complete a Physical Activity Readiness Questionaire, known as a PARQ, prior to the annual assessment. He said as far as he knew Wallace, who was on-duty at the time of the incident, “did not have any kind of history.”
“It’s a questionnaire that they have to fill out to be cleared medically,” Clayton said.
Wallace, who worked the night shift at the Charles B. Webster Detention Center, joined the sheriff’s office in November 2010 at the age of 54. Clayton said he was a “dedicated employee” with “good standing.”
“I usually go (to the Detention Center) once or twice a month on the evening shift and visit with the deputies and he seemed like a good squared away deputy that knew his job and he seemed like he did it diligently,” Clayton said. “We always received good reports on him.”
Capt. Bill Reeves, who oversees operations at the detention center, said Wallace was an “excellent worker” who will be “greatly missed.”
“When I got off at 5 p.m. he would always be coming into the parking lot, and his shift didn’t start until 5:45 p.m. so we always counted on him to show up and do his job with very little supervision,” he said. “With him being 61-years-old he was definitely old school, but he had great work ethic and I wish I had a lot more just like him.”
A Celebration of Life ceremony for Wallace is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Thomas L. King Funeral Home at 124 Davis Road in Martinez.