Friends, family and colleagues of the late Knightdale police officer Ryan Hayworth talked through tears at his funeral about the impact the young officer had on everyone around him, and about the void his death has left in their lives.
Members of the Knightdale Police Department, where Hayworth had been on the force for just three months before he was killed in a crash on Interstate 540 early Sunday, joined his family and friends at Elevation Baptist Church in Knightdale for the first of multiple services Friday to honor the young officer.
“As a man who feels a great swell of compassion and love for the people that I lead, I am crushed by Ryan’s death,” Police Chief Lawrence Capps said. “My life will be forever changed by that 3 a.m. phone call.”
Hayworth, 23, and other officers were investigating a single-vehicle crash on I-540 shortly after 2:30 a.m. when police say Dedric Romero Privette, 40, also of Knightdale, hit one of their cars, pushing it into the other.
Hayworth suffered serious injuries and was taken to WakeMed in Raleigh, where he died.
“It is not how Ryan died that made him heroic or remarkable,” Capps said. “It is the manner in which he lived that made him heroic and remarkable.”
Two days earlier, at a candlelight vigil attended by the Knightdale Police Department and hundreds of local residents, Capps told officers to emulate Hayworth’s commitment to serving others, and his passion for working on the force, particularly during “one of the most trying times in our country.”
He repeated that message Friday, saying Hayworth knew that the nature of policing and its role as the “foundation upon which everything else is built” made it prone to criticism, but that he “chose to serve anyway.”
“Policing, the sense of order and safety it creates, is necessary,” Capps said. “Everything else is contingent.”
Hayworth saw that, Capps said, and “recognized that police officers are key players in a cosmic battle between good and evil.”
Before joining the Knightdale Police Department in July, Hayworth served in the U.S. Army.
His father, Timothy Hayworth, served as a longtime police chief in Zebulon, and his younger brother, Adam Hayworth, became a firefighter.
Standing before his brother’s casket, which was draped in the American flag, Adam recalled trying to convince Ryan to join the fire department instead of the police force.
“He would always say, ‘No, I want to follow my father’s footsteps,’” Adam said. “‘One day I want to become a chief, and I want to live like my dad did.’”
Ryan was “the best brother a guy could have,” his younger brother said.
Reflecting on how suddenly his brother was taken from him, Adam shared a simple message for those who have siblings.
“Don’t take them for granted,” he said. “Even though I lost my brother, spend as much time as you can with them. They’re all you got.”
Seat at the wedding
Adam recalled how excited Ryan was for his younger brother’s wedding next April, and how much he was looking forward to dressing up and celebrating over wedding cake.
“I will promise you, on the day I get married, there will be a seat for him, and there will be a [piece of] cake cut out for him,” Adam said.
He added that there was one other thing he never got to do with his brother.
“When I turn 21 — he always wanted to go to Olde Raleigh Distillery,” Adam said. “I’m going to go, for him, no matter what.”
Between eulogies, the church filled with some of Hayworth’s favorite songs, including the hymn “I’ll Fly Away.”
After the service, a large procession including several police cars, motorcycles and a caisson, a horse-drawn military wagon carrying Hayworth’s casket, brought Hayworth’s body to Gethsemane Memorial Gardens in Zebulon.