Florida police chief with new pilot’s license dies in plane crash

A Florida police chief who recently got his pilot’s license died in a plane crash outside an airport, authorities said.

A single-engine private plane piloted by Ocala Police Chief Greg Graham crashed in an open field outside the Marion County Airport at about 11:30 a.m. Sunday. Graham, the city’s police chief since 2012, was the only person aboard the aircraft, the Ocala Star-Banner reported.

“It’s hard to believe,” Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn told the newspaper, adding that the top cop had just recently obtained his pilot’s license to satisfy his long-held interest in flying.

“His leadership was responsible for changing the direction of the department,” Guinn said Sunday. “I couldn’t have asked for anybody better.”

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said Sunday investigators aren’t clear on what caused the wreck.

“Right now, we don’t have all the answers as to what exactly happened,” Woods said in a statement. “Investigators will be working on that in the coming days.”

First responders found the pilot of the plane died at the scene, Woods said.

“We were then shocked and grief-stricken to learn that the pilot was my good friend and mentor, Chief Greg Graham,” Woods said. “I had the privilege of serving with Chief Graham as he devoted over 30 years of his life to law enforcement.”

Ocala police chief Greg Graham
Ocala police chief Greg GrahamMCSO

Sheriff officials and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the fatal crash, the Star-Banner reported.

Graham, who left the department in 2008 to head up cops in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, later rejoined the Florida agency in 2011. Some five years later, he was placed on administrative leave when three officers accused him of racial discrimination, but he was later reinstated and cleared of wrongdoing in 2017, the Star-Banner reported.

“Chief Graham was a mentor to many and inspirational to all,” department officials posted on Facebook.

“We have had the great privilege to have called him a friend, a boss, and a part of our family for well over thirty years. He was the heart of the department. His heart beat for Ocala, for his community, for his department, and especially for his family.”

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