MAXTON — Purnell Swett High School’s parking lot was awash in blue lights as members of area law enforcement waited to escort the body of a brother-in-arms to his final resting place.
Wednesday’s solemn send-off was for Scotland County Deputy sheriff’s Deputy Alexis Thunder Eagle Locklear, who was killed in the line of duty in a vehicle accident while en route to assist a fellow officer on March 1. Locklear had long roots in Robeson County, and attended high school where his funeral was held.
“When a brother is lost, it is felt by every county deputy, every state trooper and police officer across the state and across this nation,” Scotland County Sheriff Ralph Kersey said.
More than 400 members of law enforcement and the community joined Locklear’s family in the high school gymnasium to say goodbye to the 23-year-old deputy. Locklear’s uncle, Jason Jacobs, called his nephew kind and loving.
“It’s difficult to condense the 23 years of love that we have for Thunder into a few short words, so this will not fully convey the immense impact he had on all of our lives,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs joked that Locklear grew up with three older sisters to boss him around and three younger sisters to boss around, tease and fight with. As an only boy, Locklear was beloved and special to the family, he said. The relationship with his sisters prepared him to be a police officer, Jacobs said.
“As he got older, he became a guardian and confidant to all his six sisters,” he said. “Their only brother became the man of the house. He took on the role that later prepared him for his future career.”
After Locklear graduated from high school in 2012, he got a job and even considered a career in the military, but continued to long to be in law enforcement — a dream he had since he was a child.
He enrolled in Basic Law Enforcement Training classes at Robeson Community College despite having no transportation. Jacobs said his nephew did whatever it took to get to classes, including waiting hours for rides.
“His whole demeanor changed,” Jacobs said. “He was happier. He had a better outlook on life. He would text me and call me and tell me about the exciting things he was working on in class.”
Locklear was sworn in with the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office on May 16, 2017, and assigned to the Patrol Division, Shift C.
“Thunder could’ve chosen many agencies to apply for, but he chose Scotland County Sheriff’s Office and it did not take a very long time upon meeting Thunder (to know) that he would fit in very well with Scotland County Sheriff’s Office family,” Kersey said.
Losing an officer is one of his “worst nightmares,” the sheriff said.
“There is a scripture that I normally say once or twice a day. I know I need to say it now,” Kersey said.
He quoted from Jeremiah 33, “Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that thou knowest not.”
Kersey told the deputy’s family that Locklear’s life was not “taken in vain.”
“He could have said, ‘Ah, I’m not going.’ He could have sat back and not volunteered. But Thunder answered,” Kersey said. “He laid aside those things that I know probably went through his mind … and he responded to the call.”
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, whose District 9 includes all of Robeson and Scotland counties., honored Locklear on the floor of the U.S. House Wednesday.
“Last week, Scotland County lost a hero, but a hero remembered never dies in our hearts,” Pittenger said. “Please join me in offering condolences to the Locklear family, Sheriff Kersey, and the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office.”
The family also was presented with letters of condolences from United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions and state Rep. Garland Pierce, of Wagram.
The Laurinburg native leaves behind a large family, including his 4-year-old daughter, Adalyn Inali Locklear.
Locklear was laid to rest in his Scotland County Sheriff’s Office uniform with a hand-beaded turtle medallion around his neck and an eagle feather in his right hand. His family said they gave him the American Indian name Thunder because “when you hear thunder, you pay attention.”
Members of the Lumbee Tribe presented Locklear’s mother, Gina, with an eagle’s feather. A Kau-ta-noh drum group performed a traditional warrior song to honor Locklear.
“Fly high Thunder Eagle, may your spirit soar and know you are loved,” his uncle said.
Reach Beth Lawrence at 910-506-3169.