Jackson County Sheriff mourns death of fallen friend - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Jackson County Sheriff mourns death of fallen friend

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) -

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - The tragic death of George County Sheriff Garry Welford has left a painful void in the hearts of all law enforcement officers. Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd is especially distraught. The two men have been friends since the 1980's. Byrd said he not only lost a good friend, he also lost a dedicated law enforcement brother.

"I'm give out son. I'm give out.  I'm hurting like everybody else is," said Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd, as he spoke to another sheriff on the phone Thursday morning.

Byrd felt exhausted, emotionally and physically, as he fielded phone calls from concerned law enforcement officers. Byrd had spent Wednesday night on a massive manhunt for two suspects who are accused of killing his friend, George County Sheriff Garry Welford.

"I've broke down a couple of times. He's my friend. He's like my brother," said Byrd.

The two men met when Sheriff Welford worked as a Game Warden. They became close friends in 2003, when Welford was elected sheriff of George County.

"He was very honest, very compassionate about what he did," said Byrd. "I talked to him at the last sheriff's conference. He said, 'Man I can't wait 'till next year. I'm going to retire.' And I said, 'Man are you sure that's what you want to do?' And he said, 'Yeah, I think so.'"

And Byrd said Welford gave it all, dying while trying to protect the citizens of George County.

"It just breaks my heart. He was a great, great law enforcement officer," said Byrd.

Sheriff Welford's death was just another devastating blow to the law enforcement community in Jackson County. The community has endured so many tragedies over the years, including one very personal to Sheriff Byrd, the death of his own son.

"It just brings it all home, and you relive it," he said. "You relive it all over again."

His only son, Pascagoula police officer Terry Michael Byrd, died in a motorcycle accident four years ago.

"When Michael got killed, Sheriff Welford was one of the first ones to contact me and offer his condolences and came and saw me, and he was there," said Byrd.

Now, Byrd and his brothers in law enforcement vow to be there for Sheriff Welford's grieving wife, children and grandchildren.

"I know that hurt. I know what they're going through, and we want to do everything we can to try to help them," said Byrd.

To show their support, members of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department will be part of the Honor Guard at Sheriff Welford's funeral.

Harrison County Sheriff Melvin Brisolara sent WLOX this statement:  "In 2004, George County took a huge step forward in law enforcement when Garry Welford became sheriff. He displayed honesty, integrity and loyalty to his department through his actions and leadership. Through the years, I have worked with Garry. He has operated with a professional approach to service. This is a tragic loss in the state of Mississippi. Sheriff Garry Welford will be sadly missed by all."

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