DALLAS, North Carolina -- As news broke of a Dallas police officer’s death in a wreck Thursday, the small town immediately started coming together to support the officer’s family and law enforcement peers.
Dallas Mayor Rick Coleman said Cpl. Travis Wells’ absence will be felt across the tight-knit community.
“It’s a big loss in a small town,” Coleman said. “Everybody knows everybody else.”
Other local officials echoed Coleman’s statement.
“It’s just such a profound tragedy,” said Pearl Burris-Floyd, a former county commissioner, state representative and member of UNC Board of Governors who lives in Dallas. “... It’s just unbelievable. I think that our police officers in Dallas are some of the finest, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire community.”
Wells had been on the force for 22 years. Burris-Floyd called his death "heartbreaking."
Police Chief Allen Scott said Wells is survived by his spouse.
Dallas Councilwoman Stacy Malker Thomas said Wells was “very involved in the town and loved by everyone.”
“It’s going to be a tremendous loss for our community because we are so small that we personally know each officer by name and their families,” Thomas said. “It’s going to be a very sad time for us.”
Like other officials, she asked that members of the greater Gaston community keep Dallas in their thoughts.
“They’re brothers in blue,” she said of Dallas officers. “It’s more than just a job. They go out there every day for us, so it’s our time to be there for his family.”
Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger said it’s been a rough year for the local law enforcement community — and especially the town of Dallas.
“It’s just a great tragedy for the Dallas Police Department and the town of Dallas,” Cloninger said. “It’s shocking news.”
A sheriff’s deputy from Dallas, Katelyn Self and her sister-in-law, nurse Amanda Self, were killed when her father, well-known businessman Roger Self, drove a jeep into a Bessemer City restaurant earlier this year.
That incident rocked the small community and reverberated around local law enforcement and first responders. Roger Self had been a former officer and had close ties to law enforcement, and his son Josh, who was seriously injured in the incident, is a county officer.
“We know each other,” Cloninger, who is from Dallas, said of local law enforcement. “We work with each other, and when a tragedy like this happens, it affects us just like it affects any family when you lose a brother or sister in an unexpected or tragic way… It’s just a hard time, and we need the support of the community.”
Gaston County Commissioner Tracy Philbeck, who represents Dallas Township, also called it “a sad day for the community.”
“We mourn the loss of anyone, especially those who sign up to protect and serve the public,” Philbeck said.
Even before Wells’ name was publicly announced, residents had started to gather near the town police department, said Austin Rammell, pastor at Venture Church in Dallas.
“You grieve over the loss of anyone,” Rammell said. “But when it’s someone who has committed their life to serving you, there’s a particular appreciation in grief — an appreciation of their life and a sadness for their death. It’s unique, and Travis has served Dallas for … a long time.”
Rammell’s a chaplain with the Gastonia Police Department, but he brought food by to the Dallas department on Thursday. He said his time working with law enforcement has taught him how officers tend to be more like family members than co-workers.
“He made a career out of serving us, and we owe it to now serve his wife and family,” Rammell said. “I think the best way for the community to grieve with them is to be there with them and to look for those opportunities that we can be a blessing back to them.”
You can reach Dashiell Coleman at 704-869-1819 or on Twitter @DashiellColeman
©2018 Gaston Gazette, Gastonia, N.C.
Visit Gaston Gazette, Gastonia, N.C. at www.gastongazette.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.