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Ocala police chief dies in plane crash

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Ocala Police Chief Greg Graham died Sunday morning when the small plane he was piloting alone crashed near Dunnellon.

His sudden death at 58 leaves the police department reeling.

Ocala Police Chief Greg Graham. Photo: OPD

Graham led the Ocala Police Department since January 2012, when he returned home after holding the top job in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The Police Department lowered the flag to half staff, and officers escorted his body to the medical examiner’s office and gathered at headquarters to run their lights as the convoy passed.

Deputy Chief Mike Balkin is serving as the interim.

“Right now our main focus is to try to help Chief Graham’s family get through this horrible, horrible tragedy,” Balkin said. “And while trying to look out for them, obviously, really, the needs of our officers is what we’re trying to look after. We want to make sure everybody is OK to go out there and work. ”

Mayor Kent Guinn says Graham did “an amazing job.”

“I just can’t say enough good things about him and the way he ran the department,” Guinn said. “Everyone loved him and, you know, he’s going to be really missed. It’s just hard.”

The chief’s recent priorities included a nationally recognized amnesty and mental health program for people struggling with opioid abuse.

OPD spokeswoman Corie Byrd says Graham wanted to bring awareness that, quote, “addiction’s not a crime.”

“His big thing was for us to look differently at those types of people who are struggling with substance abuse,” she said.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office says it’s looking into the death and the FAA is investigating the crash.

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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes


Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.