09/08/2003

Routine Call Turns Tragic for N.C. Deputy

Officer Down: William James II - [Garner, ]

GARNER -- It was a routine call, if there is such a thing in the unpredictable life of a deputy.

Wake County Sheriff's Deputy William Franklin James II had just fueled up at the police filling station near Wake Technical Community College south of Garner. It had only been an hour since his 7 p.m. shift started Friday.

A call came in from the dispatcher. Two women were having an argument at their home on Darnley Road in Garner. In a 911 call, one of the women mentioned a butcher knife and a steak knife and said the other woman's son was in the house as well.

The dispatcher gave the deputy permission to turn on his blue lights and sirens. As he sped off to a potentially dangerous domestic violence situation, James responded calmly that he was en route, giving only his vehicle number -- 913.

It was the last time he would talk with any of his co-workers.

On his way to Garner, James lost control of his cruiser on Rand Road near Wood Oak Trail, traveling left of the center line and slamming into the passenger side of a 1993 Chevrolet Cavalier driven by 17-year-old Jessica Lynn Anderson of Garner.

The next call from the dispatcher was for James. Another deputy, arriving on scene, said he was unconscious and not responding but still breathing. The teenager was in better condition, conscious but clearly hurt and trapped in the twisted metal.

James was pronounced dead on arrival at WakeMed. He was the first Wake County sheriff's deputy killed in the line of duty since 1933.

Anderson suffered a fractured collarbone and cuts on her face. She was upgraded from serious to fair condition Saturday morning and underwent knee surgery at WakeMed in the afternoon.

Within minutes of the 8:25 p.m. crash, Sheriff Donnie Harrison was on the scene. It was a double tragedy for him personally. He had just spoken with James about moving to a new job in the expanded K-9 unit, and Anderson is an active member of his church, Holland United Methodist.

As officers pried open the car to free Anderson, Harrison talked with her through the window on the other side. He assuaged her fear that she would be in trouble for wrecking the family car.

Anderson had been returning home from playing soccer with friends at Lake Benson Park. A senior at Garner High School, she had just gotten her license and was trying to get home before the 9 p.m. curfew for new drivers.

Family friends said that is just like her. They described her as a frequent baby sitter and active youth group leader who studies karate and has taken more than one trip to build homes in the Appalachians.

She is "everybody's favorite teen ager," said Courtney Sanford, former youth leader at Holland United Methodist.

"She's the last person we thought we'd see in an accident," she said. "Some teen agers kind of attract dangerous situations. She's not one of those."

The state Highway Patrol is investigating the accident for the Sheriff's Office. So far, there are no theories on why James lost control.

James, 33, graduated from Citrus High School in Inverness, Fla., in 1988 and joined the U.S. Navy. A machinist's mate third class, he served in the Persian Gulf War before leaving the military for police work in 1996.

He worked for the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office and police departments in Sunset Beach and the city of Rockingham before joining the Wake County Sheriff's Office in August 2000.

Because he was new to the area -- and therefore not known to local criminals -- James was recruited for a yearlong undercover project called Operation Star Bust.

James, who normally went by Frank, chose for his alias the name "Jesse" after the notorious Wild West outlaw and posed as a fence for stolen goods from South Carolina.

Though he left the undercover unit to become a patrol deputy in 2001, many of the officers he worked with from that time still referred to him as Jesse.

James lived in Morrisville with his wife, April, and a 13-year-old son, Travis, from a previous marriage . He and his wife had just celebrated their first anniversary.

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