'An incredibly tragic day for Ocala': Florida police chief Greg Graham killed in plane crash

Andy Fillmore, Carlos Medina and Austin L. Miller, Ocala Star-Banner
·2 min read

DUNNELLON, Fla. — A Florida police chief who had recently earned his pilot's license was killed in a small-plane crash on Sunday morning.

The death of Greg Graham, who became Ocala's 30th police chief in January 2012, according to the Star-Banner of the USA TODAY Network, stunned the central Florida city northwest of Orlando.

"An incredibly tragic day for Ocala. Please pray and send comforting thoughts to the entire Graham family," City Council member Matt Wardell posted on Facebook.

"I will miss you my friend," former school board candidate and community leader Shelia Arnett wrote on Facebook.

Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn learned of Graham's death from Deputy Chief Mike Balken, who was named the city's interim chief.

"It's hard to believe," Guinn said, adding that Graham enjoyed skydiving and scuba diving and had a fascination with flying, leading him to obtain his pilot's license.

Marion County Fire Rescue received the plane crash call at 11:32 a.m. The plane crashed into an open field not far from the Marion County Airport, a county-owned facility in an unincorporated area near Dunnellon.

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Valerie Strong, a spokeswoman for the Marion County Sheriff's Office, said no one else was injured in the crash.

The police department posted a Facebook tribute for Graham, and more than two dozen law enforcement vehicles, light bars activated, were parked in tribute outside police headquarters later Sunday.

"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," the department's post said. "He was the heart of the Department. His heart beat for Ocala, for his community, for his department, and especially for his family.

"We will miss his passion for community and law enforcement; his candor and personality; his strong leadership; and most definitely his smile."

Of Graham, Guinn added, "His leadership was responsible for changing the direction of the department. I couldn't have asked for anybody better."

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This article originally appeared on Ocala Star-Banner: Greg Graham, police chief in Ocala, Florida, killed in plane crash