Slain detective laid to rest

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Hundreds attend funeral for slain detective

Tatum remembered as dedicated officer and good man

Uniformed law enforcement officers saluting
Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

This morning, a funeral service with full honors was held for Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Detective Charles Tatum.

Family, friends, co-workers, and law enforcement officers from across the state and region attended the funeral. Many accompanied the funeral procession from Oxford to Tatum's hometown of Guin, AL, for the graveside service and burial.

"The procession itself was about two miles long, and that was for the entire 115-mile drive to Guin," said Yoknapatawpha Memorial Funeral Home director Edgar Tarpley. "Around 1,200 people attended the service in Oxford, and maybe half of those were law enforcement officers."

Every member of the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department who was not on essential duty at the time of the funeral service was in attendance.

"We're all completely devastated," said YCSD Sgt. Steven Spearman. "I still can't believe he's gone. Charlie was a mainstay of this department. He was an inspiration and a role model to so many of us. It'll never be the same without him."

Death investigation ongoing

Tatum's death was initially thought to be a suicide, but autopsy findings changed that opinion, and the death is being investigated as a homicide.

The Sheriff's Department has not released many details about Tatum's death. Sheriff Taylor Sheldon has repeatedly declined to comment on whether investigators have identified any suspects or developed any promising leads.

"The department is investigating this case 24-7," Sheldon said. "One of our own has been brutally and callously murdered, and we will not rest until his killer or killers are brought to justice."

Officers, community in mourning

Reverend Leroy Minter, an officiator at Sunday's service, said Tatum attended worship services regularly, but nothing superseded his commitment to law enforcement.

"Charlie was devoted to the Lord, and he was wholly dedicated to his job protecting and serving the people of this county, " Minter said during the service. "With every call for help he answered from a citizen, he was answering the greater call we all receive to be our brother's keeper, to love our neighbors as ourselves."

St. Peter's Episcopal Church was crowded with mourners, filling the main sanctuary, overflowing into the lobby, and even spilling out onto the church lawn. In addition to the numerous members of the law enforcement community who were present, many Yoknapatawpha County civilians were also in attendance, some of whom had only a passing acquaintance with Tatum.

"Back when he was still in uniform a few years ago, he used to drop in all the time for some barbecue," said Carl Dixon, co-owner of Home Plate restaurant. "When he made detective, we didn't get to see him as much after that. We never would've guessed his time on this earth would be so short. He surely will be missed."

Others came simply to show their support. "I didn't know the man myself, but I just think it's wrong for anyone to kill a police officer," said local secretary Corinna Morgan. "Especially with the way things are in this country these days, we don't need to be killing the people who are trying to protect us."

District Attorney Jillian Ross was also in attendance. "Charlie was a good man, the best. He had a good heart, and he wanted to make the world a little safer for the little guy."

"He took a hard line with anyone who violated the law, no question, but he never lost sight of the human factor — both criminal and victim — in the crime," Ross added.

"You can never have enough cops like Charles Tatum. And now, tragically, we have one less."

By Kemper Jones at 3:00PM


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