MARION COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – A Marion County deputy was killed in a single-vehicle crash early Tuesday morning, according to Sheriff Brian Wallace.
The fallen deputy, who was responding to a call for service, has been identified as PFC. Michael Shawn Latu, a post on the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page states.
The crash happened around 1:05 a.m. on U.S. 76 near the U.S. 501 Bypass, according to Cpl. Sonny Collins with the South Carolina Highway Patrol. He added the deputy was traveling east on U.S. 76 in a 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe when the vehicle ran off the right side of the roadway and struck a bridge pillar.
Latu’s career began as a 911 dispatch operator in 2012 before joining the sheriff’s office three years later.
Latu was the Marion County Sheriff’s Office 2018 Deputy of the Year, as well as the 2018 Patrolman of the Year. He was described as “quiet with a genius level IQ” and the “workhorse of the department” who was always eager to help.
“If you needed somebody for an assignment or needed some extra help, he was always the guy you could depend on,” Sheriff Brian Wallace said.
“If I told him I was in trouble, it don’t matter if he was on duty, off duty, he’d come flying to me," Hope Elliot, a 911 dispatcher, said.
Latu was described by co-workers as a “gentle giant” who loved what he did and where he worked.
“He was very quiet, but when he said something you paid attention because it was going to be hilarious or something genius,” victim advocate Tammy Erwin said.
“We would hang out and talk everyday about everything,” Melissa Fletcher, a 911 dispatcher, said.
Tuesday morning, the sheriff’s office placed a patrol car memorial in front of the department in honor Latu.
The crash remains under investigation by the SCHP MAIT team.
The same morning, area law enforcement agencies began offering their condolences to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office for the loss of Latu.
“The ache of loss is one that won’t soon see relief,” the Horry County Police Department stated in a post on its Facebook page.
“Please keep the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in your prayers,” a post on the Florence County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page stated.
A number of other agencies from across the Grand Strand and Pee Dee also took to social media to stand with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.