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Thin blue line grew wide when Lt. Case went down

Lt. Jimmy Case, a familiar sight around town on motorcycle patrol, as a K9 officer and driving safety instructor, died unexpectedly Thursday. Lt. Jimmy Case, a familiar sight around town on motorcycle patrol, as a K9 officer and driving safety instructor, died unexpectedly Thursday.

The thin blue line grew awfully wide on Thursday.

Law officers across Henderson County were mourning the loss of Hendersonville police Lt. Jimmy Case, who died unexpectedly Thursday at age 57 after collapsing at his home. Case had taken time off to look after this wife, who was recovering from surgery, when he went outside to do some yard work. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. He died at Pardee Hospital.

“A lot of people consider Jimmy Case to be a superhero cop,” said Hendersonville Police Chief Herbert Blake. “We are numb and devastated. This thing cannot be explained to a level where people can understand. He was just an affable and enjoyable person to have in an organization and he is going to leave a void that cannot be filled. He can be replaced but that void is not going to be filled.”

Promoted to sergeant in 2012, Case became an acting lieutenant in 2017, and received a promotion to full lieutenant earlier this year. Over the years, Jimmy served as a K9 officer, motorcycle officer, hostage negotiator and Alive at 25 instructor for the department. Most recently he was honored with the Bill Powers Leadership Award as Supervisor of the Year during the department’s annual award ceremony last month.

"Everybody loved that guy," said Councilman Jeff Miller, whose wife and sister-in-law were classmates with Case at East Henderson High School. "He's just gonna be missed. He was old school but just a good police officer. He had rapport with people. Everybody's just really sideways over this. It's a big loss for the community. Just a damn good cop. He's one of these guys that if he writes you a ticket, you'd probably thank him."

At times a fuss pops up that seems to pit agency leaders against one another. But on the street, the fraternity is never so strong as when a law officer goes down. City officers raced to Case's home when they heard about the call and then drove to Pardee to comfort his family. The officers on duty serve on Lt. Case's Team 4. Suddenly, their leader was gone.

“At about 1:30 or 2 o’clock the sheriff’s office offered and we graciously accepted them providing patrol and dispatch services to the city,” Chief Blake said. “I tell you, these are the times when you find out about people and their intent and I cannot be more grateful to the sheriff, his chief deputy, his command staff, the line people within the sheriff’s office for stepping up to the plate, assuming patrol duties for the city till about 10 o’clock last night, (and) dispatch responsibilities. We couldn’t be more impressed and more appreciative with what Sheriff Griffin did in a time such as this.”

Sheriff Lowell Griffin has known Case since high school, through the volunteer fire service and law enforcement. Case was a volunteer firefighter at Blue Ridge, Griffin at Edneyville Fire & Rescue. Deputies monitoring a scanner heard the emergency call and recognized the location as Case's address.

“I was made aware immediately because we were familiar with where Lt. Case lived,” Griffin said. “At that time we saw numerous personnel from the city as well. And the city officers that responded, they were visibly shaken because this had suddenly and tragically occurred to one of their closest friends. And it was at that point, we know, because we all work at this together, that we needed to support them as well as we could. We don’t need these officers out on the street after they’ve experienced the loss of something so close to them. It’s the same thing as experiencing the loss of a family member really. So these folks, visibly shaken, visibly upset, I had folks at the sheriff’s office immediately go into gear to cover the needs of the city of Hendersonville as well as the county.”

Off-duty sheriff’s deputies came in to cover city calls.

“We all know the situation they’re in and we know the city of Hendersonville would do the same thing for us if we need that kind of assistance,” Griffin said. “When you work a patrol squad it’s like a family unit. Many times you see them as much or more as your family. You become so familiar that you really have real relationships with these people. That’s why we knew it was important to relieve these people and let them have some time to grieve and gather their thoughts because it was such a shock to everyone.”

The coverage continued until 10 Thursday night, “when we felt guys were at a place mentally to resume patrol duties," Chief Blake said. "The sheriff’s office, Laurel Park PD, the Highway Patrol — all agencies within Henderson County were just tremendously helpful and collegial and we really deeply appreciate that.”

The city announced that funeral services would be held Monday and a fund had been set up for the family..

"The law enforcement community lost a true hero (Thursday) afternoon," the sheriff's office said in a Facebook post. "HPD Lieutenant Jimmy Case will be forever missed. Jimmy served at the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office from 1984-1994 before joining the Hendersonville Police Department in 1999. We at HCSO offer our deepest condolences to the Case family and our brothers and sisters in Blue at the Hendersonville Police Department. It isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later."