Losing a law enforcement officer is a tough pill to swallow for any community, especially when it occurs while in the line of duty.
For Grenada County, that horror became reality in 2011 when Grenada Police officer John Wayne Haddock made the ultimate sacrifice, putting his life on the line to avoid the worst from happening as a speeding sports car approached him as it raced toward some of Grenada’s busiest intersections. It was because of Haddock’s sacrifice that the vehicle came to a stop and brought an end to what could have been an immeasurable catastrophe.
Haddock’s heroic act occurred a decade ago.
“It’s been a long 10 years for the family,” Haddock’s sister, Jeanette Harrison, said. “What bothers us so much is the way that he died. I got the phone call at about 9:30 a.m. from my sister Pat (Havens), who called me in Atlanta. She simply said John Wayne had been killed. I immediately thought he had been shot, but our father (Larry Haddock) called me and said he had been struck by two guys in a car.”
The day started as a typical Friday morning in Grenada. It was a warm fall morning with temperatures just edging the 70-degree mark. It was football season and both Grenada High School and Kirk Academy had home games later that day, so in the eyes of many, it was the perfect way to bring in the first week of October.
It was early in the morning on that Friday, which meant traffic consisted mostly of elderly people out to make their purchases before the weekend rush. Traffic had also settled from the early morning bus routes and until the lunch hour, the streets were a tad bit quieter.
In Western Grenada County, shortly before 9 a.m., the Grenada County Sheriff’s Office received a tip of a possible burglary of a church just off Highway 35 on Turkey Foot Road.
An eyewitness spotted burglars leaving a parsonage and contacted the sheriff’s department. A sheriff’s deputy spotted the car and attempted to stop the black Toyota sports car, which was connected with the burglary. That’s when the high-speed pursuit began. The chase continued through Holcomb and began entering into the Grenada city limits.
The sheriff’s office then called for assistance from the Grenada Police Department alerting all units about the vehicle traveling at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour past Dubard, Bew Springs and entering the Grenada city limits.
“That’s when I received the call and I started for the interstate,” Ricky Williamson, a then-young patrolman with the Grenada Police Department, recalled. “G-3 (Haddock’s badge number) was already at Interstate 55 and Sunset Drive. While I was on the interstate, I saw him already there and then I saw the pursuit.”
Williamson said that in a split second, he saw a vehicle go down the hill just toward Frontage Road. Seconds later, he was at the scene, but he did not see Haddock.
“I remember hearing Johnny Grantham calling for an ambulance,” Williamson said. “When I got out, I ran down the hill and looked on the ground and saw John Wayne’s driver’s license, but I didn’t see him.”
Haddock had arrived at the scene to lay spike strips down to stop the vehicle in pursuit from entering upcoming busy intersections. As a result, he was struck and upon impact was thrown approximately 200 feet. The impact threw him down onto Frontage Road as the vehicle that deputies were chasing flipped into a ditch.
Haddock was killed instantly. He is believed to be the first officer killed in the line of duty employed with the Grenada Police Department.
Haddock was born and raised in Grenada, and was a 1981 graduate of Grenada High School. Through the ’80s and ’90s, he rose through the GPD ranks to captain. He didn’t stop there as he often offered community service. He was a member of the Tie Plant Volunteer Fire Department and was in the United States Army as a military police officer in the 1980s. Away from the police department, he spent time as a Grenada School District employee, spending decades as a bus driver for the GHS Marching Band.
At the time of his death, Haddock was the second police officer in the State of Mississippi killed that year. Madison Police Officer Jimmy Brooks was killed earlier that year while on a motorcycle, but was not on duty at the time. Haddock was also an avid motorcycle rider and earned respect as a rider by not only Grenada officers, but those throughout the state.
In the days leading up to his funeral, police officials led by then-Chief James Fox and Assistant Chief Irby Montgomery, put then-GPD patrolman Chris Brown in charge of law-themed, decorative services the likes of which the city had never seen.
“At that time, I was only a patrolman,” Brown said. “But, I was Commander of the Honor Guard, so they handpicked me to take it over.”
Days later when Haddock was laid to rest, hundreds of law enforcement agencies converged on Grenada to show their respect. Additionally, thousands of spectators lined the streets to witness the veteran officer’s decorative send-off as Haddock’s body was taken from Emmanuel Baptist Church in a 1942 Mack fire truck to Woodlawn Cemetery.
“We got in touch with Mississippi Highway Patrol and they brought in their honor flag,” Brown said. “The Tennessee Highway Patrol did the same thing. Because G-3 was a rider, there were motorcycles from all over the state. I have my brothers to thank for helping me pull that off. There were Honor Guards here from all over Mississippi, and that’s not mentioning the countless number of officers. Through all of that, the hardest part was handing the flag to his wife, Angie.”
A lot can happen in a span of 10 years, but when it comes to that day it’ll forever be etched in the minds of officers and deputies in Grenada County.
Williamson is now a captain with the police department, but admitted that he was so haunted by that day, that he swore to exit his career in law enforcement.
“That’s how much it affected me,” Williamson said. “I remember sitting in a truck with the late Lee Tartt and him telling me, ‘You’re not going to quit, Rick.’”
Williamson said Tartt reminded him of how much he was needed in the community. This year marks his 15th year wearing a badge.
“His car number was C-3 and that’s the car that I drive today,” Williamson said. “I learned a lot from this experience and it drove me to do more when it comes to police officer training. We now have the City of Grenada Law Enforcement Training Academy and it’s one of the best around.”
Haddock’s father, who delivered the tragic news to Atlanta that year, died in 2019 at the age of 83, and just like his son, in the first week of October. One of the two men convicted of capital murder in Haddock’s death was found hanging in his jail cell last year at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. The driver of the vehicle that struck Haddock is serving a life sentence in the Mississippi Department of Correction.
Brown is now an investigator in his 16th year with the department. He said being handed those responsibilities in 2011 taught him a lot.
“I think about John Wayne every single day,” Brown concluded. “That was a tough, tough thing to go through, but seeing the support that we got from not only Grenada, but the entire state, shows just how important he was in our lives.”
On Oct. 7, family and friends are welcome to pay their respects at Haddock’s grave from 11 a.m. until noon.