By Larry Gierer
COLUMBUS, Ga. — An undercover Metro Narcotics Task Force officer was killed and another seriously injured Tuesday as their truck crashed on Veterans Parkway while en route to aid another officer, authorities said.
Columbus Police Cpl. Thomas Keith Slay, 53, died of his injuries at The Medical Center, Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan confirmed. Russell County Sheriff's Deputy Brad Evans suffered head injuries and underwent surgery at the hospital, Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said.
Both were assigned to the multi-agency drug task force, administrators said.
Slay was pronounced dead at 3:52 p.m. from the blunt force trauma sustained in the crash.
After emergency surgery, Evans was in the intensive care unit at 7:30 p.m., Taylor said. Evans was listed in critical condition.
The wreck happened around 3 p.m. across from B. Merrell's on north Veterans. Slay was driving an unmarked black Ford pickup that had blue lights and sirens activated, police said. The officers were on an operation and going to assist another officer in a traffic stop.
Another vehicle entering the truck's lane hit the officers' northbound truck, sending it into a sideways slide, police said. As the truck left the road, its driver's side struck a utility pole and snapped the pole in half. Georgia Power workers had to do repairs before the officer's vehicle could be towed away.
The roof of the truck's cab was smashed and the front windshield shattered.
The accident happened near Columbus Body Works Northlake. A Columbus Body Works employee said he heard a loud boom and rushed out of the building.
"It sounded like a bomb going off," Alan Brown said. When he came outside he saw a "big cloud of dust."
Sheriff Taylor was in Florida on business Tuesday and was returning to Russell County that night. He was getting regular updates.
"We are praying for all of the parties involved," Taylor said. "My guy is a young deputy with a young family."
Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, the city's public safety director, echoed the sheriff's sentiments.
"I want to point that Cpl. Slay was serving the citizens until the end," she said. "For that we are eternally grateful."
Besides serving on the drug task force, Slay was the unit's helicopter pilot. He had more than 30 years in law enforcement in Columbus, first with the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office, then with the police department.
Columbus police released this statement Tuesday night from Chief Ricky Boren, "Obviously, this is a devastating time for the families of those lost and injured and for the brethren of officers that served with these men. We ask the entire community to lift Special Agents Slay and Evans up in prayer, as well as their families. We are talking about true public servants and law enforcement officers, and this is just devastating to us all."
Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr called Slay "a great guy and great law enforcement officer."
"He was always very professional," Darr said. "You can't say that about everybody. He was dedicated to the job and he is going to be missed. It is a huge loss."
The Motor Squad of the Columbus Police a Department is investigating the incident.
Staff writers Tim Chitwood and Chuck Williams contributed to this report.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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