MARION COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – A Marion County deputy died in a crash early Tuesday morning while responding to a call, the sheriff’s office said.
Private First Class Michael Shawn Latu was killed in a crash just before 1 a.m. Tuesday, Sheriff Brian Wallace said.
“It’s a sad day in Marion County,” Sheriff Wallace said. “It will take some time to overcome this. There’s a void in our hearts, but Mike Latu will always be remembered in Marion County and he’ll be in the hearts of the citizens.”
Highway Patrol says the 34-year-old deputy’s car was traveling east on Highway 76 when it hit a pillar on the Highway 501 overpass.
PFC Latu had joined MCSO in 2015 after working for the 9-1-1 dispatch center for three years.
“Worked his way up,” Sheriff Wallace said. It was clear he was emotional. “Always wanted to be a deputy. And he was hired. Done a great job. I promise you he will not be forgotten.”
Sheriff Wallace said PFC Latu was on his way to help another deputy in Mullins with an incident involving a foot chase when the wreck happened.
His body was taken to MUSC in Charleston for an autopsy.
First-responders from several different departments, including Charleston police and the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office helped in the escort.
Several others reached out to offer condolences, MCSO said.
“You have no idea the respect and the honor and how moving it is to know that you’re not along and that we’re all a family,” MCSO Victim Advocate Tammy Erwin. She worked closely with PFC Latu. “If he answered your call, you were in great hands because he was going to make sure everything was done to a ‘t.'”
She had many fond memories of the deputy.
“He was very caring and one thing was that because he was quiet, a lot of people didn’t understand that Mike was super intelligent,” Erwin said. “If he ever said anything, you needed to listen because it was going to be hilarious.”
She said community members had been reaching out all day, some even bringing by food to show their support.
Many were seen expressing their grief in the office and parking lot. A truck was parked in the front with a wreath, flowers and balloons.
Latu was the MCSO 2018 Deputy of the Year and 2018 Patrolman of the Year.
PFC Latu’s body remains in Charleston. His family is having some of his organs donated.
MCSO is flying his family in from Illinois Wednesday. Funeral plans haven’t been finalized yet.
The crash remains under investigation by the SCHP.
Sheriff Wallace, though, says this deputy will never be forgotten.
“As long as I’m sheriff, as long as this department stands, he will be here,” Sheriff Wallace said. “He will always have a place in my heart.”
Anyone who would like to donate to Latu’s family can do so here.
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