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The ultimate sacrifice
Community mourns loss of deputy killed in line of duty
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The Rockdale County Fire Department takes down the flag that was flown over Ga. Highway 138 as the funeral procession passed. - photo by Michelle Kim

Father. Husband. Friend. Officer. Son. Brother. Hero. The community mourned the loss of all of these in Deputy Brian Lamar Mahaffey, who died Saturday, May 8, 2010, when he was shot and killed in the line of duty, the day after he turned 28. 

On Wednesday, thousands of law enforcement personnel from across the region, state and country streamed down Ga. Highway 138 –— Mahaffey’s favorite stretch of road — and poured into the parking lot of First Baptist Church of Conyers to pay their final respects to the first Rockdale deputy killed in the line of duty since 1917.

All along the funeral processional route, community members flew flags or held up signs of support, or simply stood with their hands over their hearts in respect and solidarity.

In a funeral service that was standing room only and spilled into overflow rooms, the young deputy’s sacrifice was marked with dignity and honor, and with loving stories of the devoted husband, friend and father of 2-year-old son Trenton and 3-month-old daughter Aniston.

Mahaffey had extensive family ties in the Conyers area and in the public safety community. He was a Heritage High School graduate and offensive lineman on the school’s football team. After graduating, he joined the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office in July 2005 as a detention officer, became a patrolman and had been working with the Narcotics and Vice unit for the past two years.

On May 8, the undercover unit, along with several back up uniformed deputies, was serving warrants for rape, aggravated sexual battery, and kidnapping to Terry Lewis Brown, 41, at 3504 Sandhill Drive, near Honey Creek Road, shortly before 1 p.m.

Mahaffey was shot as he opened the door to the bedroom closet where Brown was hiding. Although the deputy was wearing a bullet proof vest, a bullet managed to go through an unprotected area into his abdomen and arm and he died at the hospital shortly after.

At the funeral, Mahaffey was given a 21-gun salute, and a helicopter formation flew overhead. The radio crackled in the silence with the announcement that Mahaffey’s badge number, 2330, was officially retired.

"I assure you, I hoped I this moment would never happen while I was sheriff," said Sherriff Jeff Wigington. To Mahaffey’s wife Diana and his family, he said, "We honor Brian for his devotion and his service. And we know that he gave his life to that service. We offer you our recognition of your sacrifice and our gratitude for that sacrifice."

During the service, friends and family also recalled the young deputy’s sense of humor, his love of fishing, trucks, stereo sound systems and his devotion to his family.

RCSO Investigator Scott Stewart, described his initial doubts of Mahaffey’s fishing abilities until Mahaffey brought home the biggest fish in a competition.

"If I was to see what he was doing now, I bet he’d be fishing somewhere in God’s great lake, using that fluke," said Stewart.

Mahaffey’s sister-in-law, Michaela Simoes, recalled how he had tried to lose her in the brush on the one and only time she went fishing with him, and how he had taught his 2-year-old son Trenton to say "deuces" and to throw up a deuces sign.

The father and son were inseparable from the beginning, she said.

"I moved in when Trenton was just a couple of months old. Even that young, he was already Brian’s little buddy. It was amazing to see the way Trenton acted when Brian walked into the room. He lit up. Brian did just the same.

"But the thing I am most grateful for is the way he was with my sister. He loved her fiercely. Even from the beginning, he was always so sure of her. He knew they were meant to be together," said Simoes, her voice breaking. "I hope she finds some comfort in this."

Mahaffey’s family thanked the community for their support and prayers.

"Our family is heartbroken," said his mother Cindy Mahaffey, at a press conference on Monday. "But at the same time, humbled by all the prayers that we had. And all the support from family and friends. We’re going to continue to need your prayer for the next few days. We’ve got a big road ahead of us. We have two small children that’s not going to have their father anymore."

The family had gone out to celebrate his birthday the night before with his favorite meal with sweet tea at a Mexican restaurant.

Mahaffey’s father Terry said he was at peace about where his son was now.

"I know he’s safe and well taken care of. We did the proper things in his life, and his soul and afterlife are sound and secure," said Terry Mahaffey.

"We know we’ll get to see him again," added his mother Cindy.