By TIM BULLARD
CONWAY — The first instance of an officer being killed in Horry County started with a routine traffic stop and ended with a senseless attack and shooting.
Corporal Dennis J. Lyden, a Horry County Sheriff’s Deputy and a parishioner of St. James Church, was laid to rest Thursday, June 8, after a tumultuous week. Hundreds of law enforcement officers came to the funeral.
Two suspects have been charged in the death of the 44-year-old former U.S. Marine. Lyden leaves behind a wife, Mary Ann.
“First of all, he was a consummate professional,” said Horry County Police Chief Paul Goward. “He pretty much lived and breathed being a police officer. He was just a fine man.”
“He loved his job,” said Capt. Buddy Feagin of the Marion Police Department, where Lyden was previously employed. “He always wanted to be a police officer. It was a life-long dream for him.”
On Thursday, law enforcement officers from across the Palmetto State and the Southeast convened with polished boots, formal uniforms and somber attitudes.
It was a challenging week for Father ‘Rick LaBrecque and the St. James staff members, who worked to provide the gymnasium and the entire parish property as a temporary worship place for South Carolina’s finest. For many it was their first Catholic service.
After the liturgy, a horse-drawn caisson from the State Guard was loaded with Lyden’s coffin, which was draped with the Stars and Stripes. At the cemetery, scores of officers lined the entrance, winding through to the burial site deep into the cemetery. The total silence was interrupted only by the clopping of Arlington National Cemetery shire horses.
Black ribbons were draped across the doors leading into the Horry County Sheriff Department’s headquarters June 5 as reporters from all over the state gathered to hear Chief Paul Goward.
“I can tell you that in 30 years of law enforcement experience, I cannot recall an incident more emotionally packed and certainly more poignant in terms of the ultimate sacrifice that we ask our police officers to subject themselves to every day when they go to work,” Goward said. “I can’t speak for every police officer in this department, but having been there and having suffered a certain degree of the same exposure in this particular situation, I think I can tell you that there are a lot of police officers in our department right now who are really hurting over what happened. He had many, many personal friends (with whom his) relationship went far beyond the kind of brotherhood that you have in this profession of ours. We are certainly paying a lot of time and attention to the condition of our officers who are having to suffer this experience.”
Horry County Council members felt the pain also.
“It just breaks my heart,” said Liz Gilland, council member. “My heart goes out to his wife and family. I treasure our law enforcement guys so much because they do put their lives on the line for us, and to know that one of them was killed doing his duty, watching out for the residents of this county, it breaks my heart.”
Sheriff Teddy Henry was at the crime scene. “There were a lot of upset officers because they worked with him so much. He was well-respected among his fellow officers. It’s just tragic but is something that police officers see and know can happen on a regular basis. We’ve been fortunate and are sorry that this had to happen to us.”
A county council meeting scheduled for last week was canceled, and government flags were lowered to half-mast.
As Solicitor Greg Hembree weighed whether or not to pursue the death penalty, Msgr. Thomas Duffy, pastor of St. Michael Church in Garden City, wrote a letter to a local newspaper, re-emphasizing his opposition on the death penalty.