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Intelligence Unit | August 20, 2014

In Honor of Lieutenant David Charles Gann

July 8, 1960 – February 17, 2009

I’m sure by now that most of you know that Lieutenant David Charles Gann was killed in a car crash while on duty on Hwy-111 on Tuesday, February 17th at about 7:15 AM. The local news media did a pretty good job of reporting his death. They covered the story for days, including showing up at his funeral. They showed great respect for law enforcement that week, and they were even sensitive to the needs of David’s widow and children, which is unusual for most media outlets. But everything they reported was about David’s death. I’ve taken a lot of time the last few days to reflect and study on my own relationship with David, and I want to tell you a few of my thoughts. I don’t want to talk about how he died; I would like to tell you how he lived.

When someone met David, the first impression was almost always the same…THIS GUY IS HUGE! We affectionately named him “Tiny” after he came to work with us, but he was most definitely NOT tiny. He was a big man, about six foot four and 350 pounds, with wide strong shoulders and a shaved head. On top of that, he was as strong as a team of mules! I guess he could be pretty intimidating to the average person at first glance, but that only lasted until he spoke. Once he started talking, you would realize immediately that you were in the presence of a true gentle giant. After a while you would come to realize that God had made him so big because he needed a big body to hold the huge heart he had been blessed with.

David never judged anyone. He just accepted them as he found them, and tried to help them. He simply wanted to make things better. He wanted to leave things better than they were when he found them; not always perfect, but better. His focus was almost never on himself, but rather on the needs of others. He had a great sense of responsibility, and believed that because he had the power to help others, then he had a duty to do just that; and he took that duty very seriously.

As I thought about all of this I couldn’t help but remember another man named David. A man who believed in his God and in his duty to serve others as selflessly as he possibly could: a man who started from ordinary, even humble beginnings who later became a man that changed the world. Obviously I am speaking of King David, Son of Jesse. He was a man who started out as a Sheppard, who later became a hero, and a King. But even more importantly, he became a man after God’s own heart.

King David was believed to be small, with red hair and a ruddy complexion. Odds are pretty good that the first time you saw him he would do absolutely nothing to inspire you. But first impressions can be very wrong, and it didn’t take King David long to show people that he was most definitely a King.

In a way, that applied to Tiny too. Given the tendency of today’s society to reject and label people that don’t fit a certain mold, there were no doubt some who looked at Tiny on the outside and immediately judged him as being unfit to do his job, but they were wrong. He was very skilled in his trade, and he was one of the most intelligent men I have ever known. Most importantly, he too was a man after God’s own heart. He loved everyone, and he had the heart of servant. He cared more for others than he ever did for himself. His daily life reflected his love for Jesus Christ, and he shared that belief with so many people. He didn’t wear it like a badge of honor, and he didn’t shove it down anyone’s throat, nor was he ashamed of it by any means. He just lived what he believed, and because he believed in how he lived, it showed every day in such an honest and pure way that it practically radiated from him. Because of his love and trust in God, Tiny is royalty now. He’s a child of God, walking on streets of gold, and wearing a crown that rivals and shames anything King David ever wore while on this earth.

Tiny loved his family. He and his wife, Deborah, would have been married for 25 years this coming June. As is often the case with couples that stay married for that long, they both have similar personalities and dispositions. He worshipped the ground she walked on, and anyone who knew him knew that he loved Deborah. He talked about her all the time, he respected her, and he would not have been the same person without her.

He also has two amazing children. His firstborn was a boy, James, and he was so proud of him. James worked for me in the jail for a while when he was just 19 and 20 years old. He was so smart and capable, I promoted him to Sergeant. He was the youngest Sergeant our agency has ever had. Later he went to work for the Dunlap Police Department as a patrol officer, but then he decided he wanted to serve his country, so he joined the U.S. Army. Now that’s a man! A Corrections Officer, a Police Officer and a Combat Veteran all by the age of 23: Tiny and Deborah must have done something really right with that boy. And it’s obvious again that God’s hand was on them as they raised their baby boy.

His second child was a girl, Jessica. What father doesn’t love their baby girl? Tiny was no exception. He bragged on her all the time; about how pretty she was, how smart she was, and how much she helped out her mother. He told me once that she would have been the perfect child, except for one small flaw; she was just like him! Jess, if you read this I want you to know something. Even if you live to be 100, that was the biggest compliment that you will ever get in your life, and it came from your father.

Tiny was and amazing man. He was a Christian; he had hundreds of true friends; he had been married for almost 25 years to the same wonderful woman, and his children loved and respected him…which brings us to a whole different part of the story.

I’ve already said that Tiny loved his kids. But what I didn’t say was that Tiny had a whole lot of kids…several hundred to be more exact. He loved each and every kid in all of Sequatchie County’s schools. He worked closer with the high school kids than the others, but he loved them all.

Now, I know that some of you are reading this and thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blah, blah, blah…he “loved” the kids, I get it.” But really, you don’t get it. He prayed for those kids, he worried about them like they were his own. He cried for them when they hurt. He laughed with them when they were happy. He shared his life with them, so much so that if you walked up and asked him. “How are the kids doing?” He would start telling you about the kids at school instead of James and Jess!! He adored all of his children.

I remember reading in the bible where King David always wanted to rebuild God’s temple, but he never got the chance. In God’s plan, that job was for another to do. That job was for someone that would follow after King David was gone. God had a specific plan for King David, and even though it was not what David wanted for himself, it was still crucial to God’s plans and HAD to be done. David had such a servant’s heart, and loved God so much that he was willing to forgo his own desires and to follow God’s plan for his life.

Like King David, Tiny had something that he longed to do. As much as he loved the schools, he longed for the chance to work more often on regular patrol duty. He talked about it a lot, and it was the one thing in his career that he longed for, yet was always denied. Just a few weeks before he was taken from us, Tiny told some friends that he realized that the work he did in the schools wasn’t just a job, it was a ministry. He said that he was finally at peace with the knowledge that what he was doing was more important that what he wanted.

To all of Tiny’s kids I’d like to say this: I believe that God called Tiny home because in God’s plan, Tiny had finished his work. I also believe that in God’s plan he has someone else to send to the schools to take over where Tiny had to leave off. I know it will be hard for everyone to accept a new face, but we can’t stop now. Tiny worked too hard, and he believed in all of you kid’s so much. I know we can never replace Tiny… never, ever, never… and we have no intention of trying. But please, give the new guy a chance. He will never be Tiny, but he might just become a new friend, as special to you in his own way as Tiny was to all of us.

I am going to make one last comparison to King David: Just like the King, Tiny had the heart of a servant. He had the love of Jesus in his heart…agape love. It’s a love that passes all human understanding, and a love that allows a gentle giant to choose a career where he will work amongst some of the worst that society has to offer, and still see that they are worth saving because God loves them. He was like that. He was amazing.

I could write forever, but I need to close this. I’ve told you that he was a wonderful husband and father, a fantastic police officer that loved his job, a kind and gentle man that loved everyone, and a shining example of what it means to be a Christian. But there’s one last thing that I want to tell you. It’s the thing about Tiny that was most important to me personally.

Tiny…he was my friend.

Category: Officer Memorials