LUMBERTON — The name of a man whose life had deep roots in Robeson County is the latest to be added to a memorial for law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty.
Scotland County sheriff’s Deputy Alexis “Thunder” Eagle Locklear’s name now adorns the stone memorial at Robeson Community College in Lumberton. His life and his service to the people of Scotland and Robeson counties were remembered and honored Wednesday during the Robeson County Executive Officers’ Association 26th annual Memorial Service.
The 24-year-old Locklear, a 2012 graduate of Purnell Swett High School, died March 1 in a single-vehicle accident while en route to assist a fellow officer involved in a vehicle pursuit.
“I respect the sacrifice he made. I am in the National Guard. We both had the same desire to serve the community,” Kristin Locklear said of his nephew. “He was quiet and reserved. We were a lot alike.”
Alexis Locklear adored his 4-year-old daughter, Adalyn, and lived for her, Kristin Locklear said. He always wanted a family.
Angelica Allen, 24, is Adalyn’s mother.
“He was loving and selfless,” she said. “He really loved Adalyn.”
The memorial service paid tribute to 16 fallen officers dating back to 1899.
The ceremony included remarks by RCC President Kimberly Gold and Executive Officers’ Association President Lt. Bruce Meares, an invocation, presentation of the colors, the playing of the national anthem, a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps.” Robeson County Sheriff-elect Burnis Wilkins also spoke.
The End of Watch honorees were read by Rowland Police Chief John Reaves. The reading was followed by a performance of “God Bless America,” closing statements and a benediction by Chaplain Paul McDowell.
“It gives us a chance to show appreciation to those who lost their lives to keep us safe,” Lt. Meares said. “It was started 26 years ago by the chiefs and has grown to an association.”
The association is a way to establish a network to help local lawmen communicate efficiently and timely about crimes, he said.
The association is also focused on being a support system to those who lost family members who have dedicated their lives to protect the people in the community, he said.
“We want families of fallen officers to feel a little comfort,” Meares said. “You can see it upsets them during the ceremonies. We want to reiterate that they haven’t been forgotten or pushed to the side.”
Samuel “Sam” Jacobs and his wife, Vonnie, both 75, are Alexis Locklear’s grandparents. Talking about their grandson drummed up fond memories that made their eyes fill with tears.
“It’s been something hard to deal with,” Sam said as his voice cracked.
When Alexis was 10 years old he expressed an interest in law enforcement, particularly the North Carolina Highway Patrol, Sam said.
“When my grandson decided to register for the program, he told me it was the last day,” Sam said. “I went up to the school and spoke with the administrators and they got him in. I brought him here (Robeson Community College) every day and picked him up.”
Alexis became dedicated to learning and was committed to completing the five-month law enforcement training, Jacobs said.
“He was tickled to death, he was so excited. He said, ‘I told you, I did it Grandpa,’” Sam Jacobs said. “It was an emotional day. I held the Bible while he was sworn in. I told him, do it well and do it honest.”
“He loved me and I loved him. I will miss seeing him laugh. I will miss him,” Vonnie said.
“He actually loved his job and the people he worked with,” Sam said. “They loved him, too. From what they showed me.”
There is no way anybody will replace Thunder Eagle, Kristin said.
“We just ask the community to keep his family in their prayers and for all law enforcement,” he said. “They (lawmen) have a tough job. Seems like it’s getting tougher.”
Reach Annick Joseph by calling 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected] or Facebook Annick MultiMedia Journalist.