KNIGHTDALE — Hundreds of people attended a Wednesday candlelight vigil for Knightdale police Officer Ryan Hayworth, who was killed in a car crash Sunday morning.
The vigil at Knightdale Station Park included speeches from Mayor Jessica Day, Raleigh police Capt. Andy Murr, Knightdale Chief Lawrence Capps and Faith Baptist Church Pastor Jason Little.
Capps said he was immediately drawn to Hayworth because of his idealism and his belief in the Knightdale Police Department’s values.
“Ryan was most definitely needed by this department and this community,” Capps said. “I dare you to find anybody who found contempt for him. He performed the duties of counselor and peacemaker better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
Hayworth, 23, of Zebulon, died while on duty after a driver crashed into his stopped police Ford Explorer, which had its emergency lights on. His training officer, Cody Hagler, 25, of Knightdale, was seriously injured.
Charges are pending against 40-year-old Dedric Romero Privette, who troopers say was impaired by alcohol. Privette and another driver, Michael Routh Melugin, remain hospitalized.
Hayworth was more than just an officer, Capps said — he was a son, brother, friend and devoted Christian. Hayworth lived his life by two commandments: loving God and loving his neighbor. Capps said Hayworth felt divinely ordained to be a servant in whatever way he could.
Capps hoped Hayworth’s memory would challenge the Knightdale Police Department’s staff to be better officers and community members to be better people.
Then he asked attendees to look into the nearest officer’s eyes.
“Know you are looking at a person just as complex as you are. We are all composites of different things, a mix of faults and flattering characteristics. Ryan would want you to know that you’re all of equal value in the sight of our creator,” Capps said.
Hayworth and his family were heavily involved in Faith Baptist Church in Knightdale. Murr and his wife taught his Sunday school class when Hayworth was in middle school. He said that even as a child, Hayworth was always respectful and dedicated to serving others.
That service began with mission trips in high school before Hayworth enlisted in the N.C. Army National Guard after high school, according to Murr. He was deployed to Kuwait where he earned several medals, including the Army Commendation Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal.
During Hurricane Ida, Hayworth was one of the first to report.
After the National Guard, Hayworth began basic law enforcement training. Murr said he wasn’t surprised by that because the Hayworth family includes several servants, including his father, retired Knightdale police chief Tim Hayworth.
Hayworth was excited to begin his career, and every week, he’d tell Murr about what he was learning or new milestones he reached.
Murr ended his remembrance by saying that while the tragedy of losing Hayworth at such a young age was almost unbearable, their shared faith meant they would be able to see each other again.
When he did, he’d find that Hayworth didn’t regret anything, according to Little, the pastor of Faith Baptist.
“If he got the chance to do it all over again, Ryan would live his life serving others all over again,” Little said. “A life of service isn’t easy or cheap. It costs the giver and benefits the receiver. But you never regret a life of service.”
He added that a life’s impact isn’t measured by its length, but by how many people a person touched.
Hayworth started with the Knightdale Police Department three months ago. However, he’d already made an impact on the community, Day said.
She said her father had recently stopped on the roadside after his check-engine light came on. An officer stopped to check on him and help diagnose the problem. Upon seeing his photo, her father recognized the officer as Hayworth.
“He touched so many lives and so many families,” Day said. “Those who knew him shared about his kindness, his spirit, his compassion and his loving heart.”
Day then told Hayworth’s parents the town and community grieved with them. She hoped they would take comfort in knowing that Hayworth would always be a part of their lives and memories, and that he had touched so many people.
She quoted the author Annette J. Dunlea: “Grief never ends, but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love.”
Hagler, the training officer, attended the vigil, having been released from the hospital earlier in the day. He used a walker to move and appeared to be in a leg brace.
“Your colleagues, family and the community are all thankful you survived,” Capps said to Hagler. “We wish you the speediest of recoveries.”
The following morning, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis honored Hayworth with a speech on the Senate floor.
“This senseless tragedy is another reminder of the constant dangers our brave men and women in law enforcement face every single day,” Tillis said. A routine call to respond to an accident resulted in a young officer losing his life in the line of duty.”
The Knightdale Police Department set up accounts for both Hagler and Hayworth at State Employees Credit Union. To contribute, visit any SECU branch and ask to make a donation to the account for Officer Cody Hagler or Tim Hayworth, Ryan’s father.
Hayworth’s funeral will take place Friday with burial following in Gethsemane Memorial Gardens. The funeral is for family and first responders only, but supporters are invited to form a line of honor from U.S. 64 Business at Leith Auto Park to the N.C. 97 traffic light.