'I'm very, very proud to have known Tyler': Sheriff shares special bond with late trooper
When Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock talks about one of his former deputies, Tyler Parker, you know he means what he says.
"Tyler was one of those that was a rising star in this profession," Hancock said. "He had a great personality. He treated people the right way."
Parker was killed Monday in an off-duty car crash after his car hydroplaned off the road and hit a tree. His 3-year-old daughter, Savannah, was taken to Navicent Health in Macon, where officials said Tuesday she is in stable but critical condition.
Hancock's words come from someone who wasn't just a boss. The sheriff knew the trooper just about Parker's entire life.
"His dad and I had worked together for a short time on the Georgia State Patrol, and then I followed Tyler through his baseball career here at school," Hancock said.
It wasn't long after that that Parker approached Hancock for his first job in law enforcement in 2014.
"Sometimes family are scared or have a lot of apprehension about a young person coming into law enforcement," Hancock said. "But his dad supported it 100 percent, and we were glad to be able to provide him that first stepping stone."
After a few years with the Crisp County Sheriff's Office, Parker moved next door to become a Georgia State Trooper.
But the sheriff kept up with him and said he even recently received a compliment about his former deputy.
"A gentleman called me and told me how great Tyler was at the gas station earlier one morning, speaking to them as they were getting their day started," he said. "He had that kind of personality about him. He loved his job. He was good at his job."
That is why Tuesday was so hard for everyone at the sheriff's office, Hancock said.
Parker still had many friends there, and Hancock said they're all working through this loss while continuing to do their jobs serving Crisp County.
"We reach down to our faith, and we think that our faith will get them them through it, and I think that's what everybody's working on today," Hancock said. "Everybody's working on their faith and their strength."
Hancock said he knows where he will turn for that.
"Right now, prayers are what we need," he said. "Of course, you've got his family up in Macon with Savannah, watching her and making sure that she's going to recover from this. So there's a lot of dynamic to this that are still happening and still evolving."
But for now, the sheriff will be honoring the boy he knew for so long.
"He's always going to be that great little, smart-mouth baseball player that found his way into law enforcement and was doing a great job at it," Hancock said. "I'm very, very proud to have known Tyler and worked along beside him and with him."