ATLANTA (WAOK)-Members of the City of Atlanta Police Department and Atlanta officials are mourning the deaths of two officers who died in a helicopter crash late Saturday night. Police say the Department’s Air Unit had been called to assist with a search for a missing 9-year-old boy in northwest Atlanta when witnesses said the helicopter lost control and crashed to the ground around 10:30 p.m.
The two officers killed on impact were identified as Officer Richard J. Halford of Lithia Springs, age 48. Halford had been a member of the APD since May 1986. He had been with the Air Unit for more than 16 years, serving as a pilot. Officer Halford has also served in the Department’s Zone 4 precinct, the Motors and DUI units. He is survived by his former wife, and a 21-year-old daughter.
The second officer killed was identified as Officer Shawn A. Smiley of Lithonia, age 40. Officer Smiley joined the APD in October 2010. He had been with the Air Unit since earlier this year, serving as a tactical flight officer. He previously served in the Department’s Zone 2 precinct. He is survived by his wife and three children, ages 5, 7, and 9.
Chief George Turner and Mayor Kasim Reed expressed appreciation for the brave officers and condolences to the families.
“Our hearts and prayers are with the families of Officer Shawn Smiley and Officer Richard Halford on this difficult day in the City of Atlanta,” said Mayor Reed. “The entire city stands with the families and the Atlanta Police Department during this time of grief.”
“Officer Richard Halford and Officer Shawn Smiley died honorably, serving our citizens and our police force,” said Chief Turner. “Every day, they provided air support for our officers, assisting in major events and searches for suspects and missing persons. Their value to our citizens and our officers on the street is incalculable. Last night they made the ultimate sacrifice in those endeavors. Please join us in honoring their valiant legacies and praying for their families and our Department as we grieve their loss.”
The helicopter crashed at Hamilton E. Holmes, near Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Both officers on board were killed on impact. The young boy reported missing was later found safe.
Trust funds have been set up to benefit the officers’ families through any Wells Fargo bank location. Contributions may be made in the name of the officers beginning at noon on Monday. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
The accident is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA.