UPDATE | Johnston Police Officer was responding to emergency call before deadly crash

Published: Dec. 9, 2017 at 11:13 AM EST
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Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017

(News 12 at 11)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Johnston Police lost an officer in the line of duty for the first time ever. Corporal James Eric Chapman died in a crash while he was responding to an emergency call Friday night. Johnston Police Chief sat down with News 12 to talk about the department's loss.

Chief Lamaz Robinson said he's seen and dealt with other police departments' grieving their losses.

Yet, he never thought he would have to grieve one of his own.

"I never thought I would experience this." Robinson said, "I never guessed in a moment's time that I would have to bury one of my officers."

He says the department is hurting but so is all of Johnston because it's a small town. The chief called it one big family.

The department is grieving right along with the Chapman family. Chief Robinson told News 12 there's an officer with the Chapman family from sun up until sun down to help them with whatever they need.

A teary-eyed Robinson said, "Its like, I lost one of my kids and my brother. I mean, he's my boy, "

Mayor Terrence Culbreath feels the heavy loss too. He hired Eric Chapman as an officer for Johnston. But Chapman was such a hard worker, he says, that he was able to rise to the ranks of Corporal faster than most. When he found out about Chapman's accident, he was broken.

"Honestly, it broke me down because I know him. I know his baby girl." Mayor Culbreath continued, "To think about it, its Christmas time. You know, a million things go through your mind."

And Christmas time won't be the same for Chapman's wife and children. The Mayor said he called Mrs. Chapman the night of the accident to talk with her. There was no talking, instead only crying. "The night it happened, I tried to talk to his wife. I could hear her in the background crying hysterically."

Both Mayor Culbreath and Chief Robinson say they are here to support the family. They also want the continued support of Johnston community they call family too.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday, Dec. 13 at 11 a.m. at Saluda Baptist Church and is open to the public.

Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017

(News 12 at 6 O'Clock)

JOHNSTON, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The Johnston Police Department says Corporal James Eric Chapman was on duty when he crashed in an accident Friday night.

According to a press release, Corporal Chapman was responding to a call in emergency mode to a call for service. He crashed near JET Middle School.

Chief Robinson writes the officer was a lived in Saluda his entire life. He joined the Johnston Police Department in July 2015 and was promoted to the rank of Corporal.

Before the officer was with the Johnston Police Department, he was in the United States Marine Corps and was deployed to Afghanistan.

The funeral services for Corporal Chapman will be on Wednesday, Dec. 13, at Saluda Baptist Church. He will later be buried in Ridge Spring, S.C. at the Ridge Spring Memorial Gardens.

Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017

(News 12 at 6 O'Clock)

EDGEFIELD, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A South Carolina community is in mourning after Johnston Police Officer James Chapman died in a car crash Friday night. Friends and family are mourning Chapman's death not just for his service to the county, but also to his country.

Cars make their way along Highway 23 in Edgefield like any normal Sunday afternoon. But just feet away from the road, down a hill, you'll find debris scattered.

Air filters and snapped tree limbs are what's left after a car accident killed Johnston Police Deputy James Chapman Friday night.

"This time of year when family and friends get together, there's going to be an empty place at their table," says community member Lillian Miles. "And that's just .. hard."

Miles goes to Bethlehem Baptist Church less than a mile from the crash site and says their tight-knit community was hit hard by the news. She says Edgefield, Johnston and Trenton are the types of towns where everyone knows everyone, which makes losing a public servant that much harder.

"It's very disheartening with the community being so close and that we lose one of our first responders in a way that you don't really know what happened," Miles says. "We just feel for the family."

County officials say the 30-year-old lost control of his patrol car before crashing between Fairway Drive and J.E.T. Middle School along SC Highway 23. Lillian drives this road every day and says she'll see it differently from now on.

"You know, you just can't understand it because you want to know what happened," Miles says. "It's not like it's a busy intersection."Not during that time of night, I wouldn't think it would be too much traffic."

While answers are few and far between right now, Miles says she knows one thing is for sure.

"The Edgefield County community is mourning their loss also," Miles says. "And I know that we don't know exactly how they feel, but we just want to let them know that we are here for them."

The crash is still under investigation and it's not clear if he was wearing a seatbelt or not. Chapman served in the marines between 2010 and 2014 before he joined the Johnston Police Department two years ago.

Local police there say they're helping with funeral arrangements now and it's a tough time for them all. Stay with News 12 NBC 26 for updates on this story.

Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017

EDGEFIELD COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A Johnson Police Officer has died after a car accident on Friday night.

The Edgefield County deputy coroner said James Eric Chapman, 30, died from head trauma at around 11:48 Friday night. Chapman was from Saluda.

According to South Carolina Highway Patrol, Chapman was in a single car accident at around 10:15 Friday night. He was driving a Ford Explorer going south down Highway 23. He went off the left shoulder, hit several trees and was ejected. Chapman was the only one inside the car.

He was taken to Augusta University Medical Center where he later died.

Troopers say it is unclear if Chapman was wearing a seatbelt. The accident remains under investigation.