Officer Brian Jones
Photo credit: Norfolk Police Department
NORFOLK, Va. -- Livingston County, Ky., a community of soybean fields and cattle farms, is where Brian Wayne Jones first imagined becoming a cop.
He left after high school to join the Navy and realized his childhood dream five years ago when he got a job as a Norfolk police officer.
Still, Jones never forgot his hometown, traveling when he could to Kentucky with his wife, Rebekah, and their three children to visit his parents and to preach at his old church.
On Friday, Jones, 35, was fatally shot in Norfolk by a gunman on a rampage. On Sunday, more than 800 miles away, members of Lola Pentecostal Church mourned Jones as if they had lost one of their own children.
"In a little town like this, church family is like your regular family," said Robert Arflack, who knew Jones since he was born and mentored him during his teenage years. "It was a sad day for us today."
When Jones was about 5, Arflack began driving him to church. "A lot of people thought he was my son."
Jones left the church as a teenager but returned, "and it really made a change in him," Arflack said. He was the guy who mowed the church's huge lawn.
As an adult, Jones was known for wrapping his long arms around his old neighbors and for strolling his 6-foot-5-inch frame around the church when he preached.
"He couldn't stand still when he preaches," Arflack said.
"You could tell God really had a hold of him."
During one of his sermons, Jones shared his personal testimony: "That he lived here as a young man, the trouble that he got into and strayed away from God, and how he joined the Navy," said the Rev. Tim Fouts, the church's pastor.
"How he had come back to God and gave his life to God, and God blessed him with a family," Fouts said.
"The best message I ever heard him preach was that night."
Jones served in the Navy from 1999 until 2007 in Hawaii, Maryland and Hampton Roads.
Jones was assigned to Carrier Strike Group 2 between 2002 and 2005 and left the Navy as a petty officer second class, according to Navy records.
Amy Crawford grew up with Jones and went to high school with him. She said he helped on her family's farm after her father died of cancer in 1992.
As teenagers, they often would go on long bike rides in the rural area.
"Everybody looked out for everybody," said Crawford, who now lives in Arizona. "My mom disciplined Brian like he was her own child.... If you were a child, you answered to every adult."
Crawford and her mother, along with Jones' parents and a friend, drove to his Navy graduation in Illinois. "He talked about wanting to be a police officer at a very young age," she said.
His death has been difficult, too, for his fellow officers.
The most recent officer to die on duty in the city was in 2006, when Seneca Darden, 25, responded to a disturbance in plain clothes and was killed by a fellow officer who did not recognize him.
At least 50 percent of Norfolk's more than 700 officers joined the force after that tragedy, said Keith Winingear, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Commodore Lodge in Norfolk.
"There's a lot of them that are a little shell-shocked," he said.
Lola Pentecostal projected Jones' picture in the sanctuary Sunday.
The church unexpectedly lost one of its members several years ago, and the pastor's son drowned last year on a missionary trip in Nicaragua.
Fouts said he again will tell his parish that although they don't know the future, "God's providence is above everything.
"You tell them people in Norfolk that Lola Pentecostal could not be more proud of a young man than Brian Jones."
Copyright 2014 - The Virginian-Pilot
McClatchy-Tribune News Service