COVID claims third local law enforcement officer in a week

From left: John Henry Williams III, Gregory Williams and Stephen Jones.
From left: John Henry Williams III, Gregory Williams and Stephen Jones.(WRDW)
Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 11:32 AM EDT
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BARNWELL, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Local law enforcement agencies continue to suffer a wave of losses due to COVID-19 — with the latest announcement coming from the Barnwell County Sheriff’s Office.

It comes as experts say coronavirus has become the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths for law enforcement officers in the U.S.

Barnwell County Deputy John Henry Williams III died Friday. A Facebook post from his sister confirmed he died from COVID-19.

The 29-year-old began his career with the Barnwell County Sheriff’s Office in February of this year and worked as a detention center deputy.

“He was a quite man with a big heart who genuinely cared for people,” the agency said Monday in announcing the death. “His dedication to his profession was evident in everything he did. His work ethic was an example to his peers. Deputy Williams loved his job and his coworkers. His constant positive attitude and faith will be sorely missed by all. Rest easy brother.”

He enjoyed video games, fishing and target shooting.

Funeral services will begin at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Folk Funeral Home chapel, with burial at the Williams Family Cemetery in White Pond. The family will receive friends from 5-7 Monday at the funeral home in Williston.

The Aiken native’s death came a few days after the COVID-related death of a detention officer in Richmond County.

Richmond County Cpl. Gregory Campbell also passed away in the past week due to complications of COVID-19.

The department says Campbell was a dedicated member of the agency for 14 years. He was hired in March of 2007 and promoted to corporal in April 2021 and assigned to the Charles B. Webster Detention Center.

In a statement, the agency said:

“On behalf of Sheriff Roundtree and the entire Sheriff’s Office, we offer our prayers and condolences to the family of Cpl. Campbell. We want to remind all of our employees and the public to continue to wash your hands, wear a mask, and practice social distancing to help prevent the spread of this virus which has taken another life of one of our own.”

Campbell’s death was the agency’s second due to COVID.

On Sept. 12, Barnwell police officer Stephen Jones passed away from COVID-19.

The pandemic has also claimed the lives of officers in North Augusta and Aiken in recent weeks.

The pandemic’s toll isn’t just a local problem.

In the first half of 2021, 71 law enforcement officials in the U.S. died from the virus — a small decrease compared to the 76 who died in the same time period in 2020, per data compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Last year, the total figure was 241 — making the virus the leading cause of law enforcement line-of-duty deaths.

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