Just before 1:00pm Monday afternoon Deputy Odell McDuffie Jr., age 43, was returning from the Hardin County Juvenile Detention Center after dropping off a juvenile. As he came around a curve and then back to a straight away on FM 770 just north of Saratoga he for unknown reasons left the roadway. His southbound police cruiser then crossed the northbound lane, traveled through a ditch and struck a stand of trees in front of a church.
Gene Denham who lives a short distance away rushed to the scene after his son ran to the house and told him a police officer had just crashed. He rushed out the door calling 911 as he did so. When he got to the patrol car it was heavily damaged. The deputy was unconscious and non responsive. He said there was fire under the hood and they tried to put it out using extinguishers. The deputy he said was trapped in the car, his lower body under the dashboard. Within minutes fire broke through the firewall and when they vinyl dashboard caught fire the car erupted in flames. Unable to do any more for Deputy McDuffie due to the intense heat he was forced to back away.
He was pronounced dead on the scene by Hardin County Justice of the Peace Warner.
Sgt. James Carson and Detective Cooper were both at the scene. Sgt. Carson said Deputy McDuffie had been with the department going on 17 years. He started out as a bailiff. Carson said McDuffie was a good deputy, had a good attitude and do anything you would ask him to do. He said even when talking to dispatchers he could tell the great loss even over the phone.
Deputy McDuffie’s brother is a Liberty Police Officer and is a councilman in the city of Cleveland. McDuffie’s sister was the former mayor of Cleveland.
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