Fallen Atlanta police officer grew up in Columbus - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Fallen Atlanta police officer grew up in Columbus

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Officer Richard J. Halford died doing what he loved- serving the citizens of Atlanta and keeping them safe while putting his own life on the line. 

He was a Hardaway High School native and his family still lives in Columbus.  He was known by close relatives as Joey, and today, they are still in disbelief that he has been taken from them.

"He did what he had to do on this Earth, and God just came down and said, ‘My child, my child, well done.  But it is hard to accept," said his cousin Charonda Huff.

Halford was on the force since 1986 and had more than 16 years of experience as a pilot in the city's air unit.  His cousin said he loved flying helicopters and he was always wearing his uniform because he was always on duty.

"Joey was in my wedding," said Huff. "He was a workaholic, so for him to take off and come to family events, everyone just showered him with love because we knew he worked so hard.  He loved his job, so knowing that he died a hero does comfort me a little bit."

Officials are still investigating the cause of the crash, but they do know the helicopter carrying Officers Richard Halford and Shawn Smiley hit the top of a power pole before it fell to the ground Saturday night.  The two were helping in the search for a missing child.  Halford leaves behind a daughter, and Smiley is survived by three children, all younger than 10 years old.

"He was a very present father," Huff said. "He was a supportive spouse.  He was the son that any mother would ever want.  He was so consistent in all his behaviors.  He was just perfect in every way."

Two families have lost a father and husband and moving forward will be difficult.  Officer Halford took a major risk to protect his community every time he went up in the air and this tragedy shows us just how easy something can go wrong at any time. 

Donations to the family can be made in the officers' names at any Wells Fargo branch.

Copyright 2012 WTVM. All rights reserved.

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