By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal and Hank Wiesner/Southern Sentinel
RIPLEY – Tippah County Deputy DeWayne Arlyn Crenshaw was eulogized Wednesday as a modest but courageous man who “touched people on both sides of the law.”
The funeral for the slain 62-year-old officer brought dozens of law enforcement and public safety officers from across the state to honor the retired, highly decorated Army veteran.
Crenshaw served God, country and community, speakers at the funeral said.
The funeral – with full military honors, since Crenshaw was a retired U.S. Army master sergeant – drew a crowd to the Ripley Event Center.
“He was a man of few words,” said Brother Calvin Price, pastor for several years to DeWayne and Martha Crenshaw. “But when he spoke he usually had something important to say.”
Price characterized Crenshaw as a man of great honor and courage, words consistently used by friends and associates when they described him.
“He touched many people on both sides of the law,” Price said.
Crenshaw was killed early Friday morning after responding to a disturbance call near Ripley. A Pontotoc man, Franklin Fitzpatrick, has been charged with capital murder in Crenshaw’s death and is being held at an undisclosed location.
During the services, Sheriff Karl Gaillard said Crenshaw served with bravery, but also with humility and modesty. Until the past few days, Gaillard was unaware of many of the honors Crenshaw received in his lifetime.
“I hope I have half the courage this man had,” Gaillard said. “I feel honored to be asked to speak at this service, but I don’t feel worthy. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.
“We worked together, and I’m going to miss him. You can replace a man. But you can’t replace the person.”
Letters of commendation from Crenshaw’s Army service noted the Bronze Star and Purple Hearts that he had received, said former Sheriff Brandon Vance, during whose administration Crenshaw became a full-time certified deputy.
Nothing can explain why Crenshaw’s life ended now, Vance said.
“Only God knows, and we have to accept not knowing why. We won’t find out until the next life,” Vance said. “Heroes do what has to be done when it has to be done, regardless of the consequences.”
“He always did his best, and he never backed down from a situation.”
In eulogizing Crenshaw, Brother Tim Wilbanks – who was a deputy with Crenshaw, but now is a Walnut police officer – recalled Crenshaw’s surprising physical ability for a man in his mid-50s. “I trained with him. I used to call him Paw Paw, and then I found out that Paw Paw could outrun me.”
Wilbanks, pastor of Middleton Pentecostal Tabernacle Church in Tennessee, read another letter of commendation from Crenshaw’s military service: “On Jan. 31, 1968, during an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, Private First Class Crenshaw acted on his own initiative to relocate non-combatants to a place of safety. Even after being wounded, he continued his efforts until all were secure.”
Crenshaw, said Wilbanks, was “unselfish” and “fearless.”
“What a man.”
The service included a Mississippi Highway Patrol Honor Guard ceremony and also a U.S. Army Military Honors ceremony and presentation of a flag to his widow.
A rifle salute was fired outside the building during the ceremony. A “Last Call” tribute to Crenshaw, whose call sign was T-5, was also played. The recording ended with Crenshaw recognized as having gone “10-7” (radio code for “out of service”) and honored for “a job well done.”
A military honor guard folded a flag over Crenshaw’s coffin and presented the flag to his family. That concluded services at the Event Center.
Pallbearers were Terry Mathis, Darrell Mathis, Eric Bibb, J. J. Mathis, Rodney Callahan and Randy Jeter. Tippah County law enforcement and emergency personnel were honorary pallbearers.
A procession back to the funeral home concluded public services.
Crenshaw served with the Tippah County Sheriff’s office, initially as a jailer and most recently as a full-time deputy.
Recalled Chief Deputy Roy Shappley: “He was an excellent officer, not just a fellow officer, but a friend. He was very good at his job, had a great sense of humor and loved everybody. He went about his job in a low-key way.”
The funeral was preceded by a long procession of law enforcement officers and fire engines from the Ripley Funeral Home to the Event Center. The hearse was flanked by a Mississippi Highway Patrol motorcycle honor guard.
The long train of vehicles proceeded south on Mississippi Highway 15 to South Main Street, up Cotton Gin Road and to the Event Center.
On hand for the funeral were American Legion members from across the country, and members of all law enforcement agencies in the county, including the Ripley Police Department, Tippah County Sheriff’s Department, and the Blue Mountain and Walnut police departments.
Also attending were state law enforcement agencies, including the Mississippi Highway Patrol and Mississippi Game and Fish officers, constables and officers from surrounding departments as far away as Holly Springs, Guntown and Tennessee.