The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office is mourning a veteran deputy who died Monday afternoon of an apparent heart attack while on duty.
Sheriff’s Capt. Frank Huggins said James Michael Lord, 56, became ill while transporting an inmate to the local detention center from Magistrate Court.
Huggins said Lord was taken to Northside Hospital-Forsyth, where he was pronounced dead. Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.
Karleen Chalker, sheriff’s personnel coordinator, said Lord’s death came as a “shock.”
“This caught us by surprise,” she said.
Chalker said Lord had been with the agency since 2000 and had worked in the sheriff’s detention division headquarters transport unit since 2005.
Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton said Lord's death was “devastating to everybody and most certainly his family."
"We certainly want to express our condolences and grief to them,” he said.
Paxton said Lord is the first local deputy to die on the job since 2003, when Sgt. David Land was killed in a motorcycle crash en route to an emergency call.
The sheriff said Lord was a pleasant person who truly enjoyed his job.
“Mike was the type of person that everybody he saw, all day long, he had a smile on his face and made sure to wave at you and acknowledge your presence,” Paxton said. “He was just a great guy. He’s going to be deeply missed.”
Chalker said Lord previously was an officer with the Roswell and Alpharetta police departments. From 1979 to 2000, he was employed by General Motors, where he worked in all stages of auto assembly and plant security.
Forsyth County Sheriff’s deputy Bill Keeton has known Lord for 38 years. He said they joined Alpharetta police together and later both worked on the force in Roswell.
When Lord decided to return to law enforcement, Keeton said he came to join him in Forsyth County. They were also in the U.S. Air Force Reserves together.
“He was just one of those great, great kinds of guys that everybody liked,” Keeton said. “It’s just a huge, huge loss to me personally and for the sheriff’s office because he was just such a great guy that everybody really loved.”
Keeton said Lord drove a Harley-Davidson hog and loved taking road trips.
He said Lord was originally from Dunwoody and his parents now live in north Forsyth. He is also survived by an adult son, Jason.
“He was always a very, very dedicated person to what he was doing,” Keeton said. “He put his heart and soul into his child, he put his heart and soul into his family.
"He was an only child and he spent many of his Friday and Saturday nights with his parents going out to eat and doing things with them.”
Lord fell ill about 1:15 p.m. Monday.
Before losing consciousness, he was able to stop the van in the parking lot of the county tax commissioner’s office at Tribble Gap Road and Sawnee Drive, Huggins said.
The inmate, who was restrained in handcuffs in the back of the van, could not phone or radio for help, Huggins said.
He was, however, able to get the attention of someone in the parking lot, which is next to Magistrate Court, and that person called 911.
As Lord was being taken to the hospital, Chalker said, another sheriff's deputy suffered minor injuries while attempting to clear Hwy. 20 to allow the ambulance through.
The deputy had not gotten out of her patrol car when it was struck by another vehicle. Chalker said the deputy was taken to the hospital for treatment.