4-year-old tells grandmother he fears being killed by police; local sheriff quells concern

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DOBSON, N.C. – A 4-year-old’s life should be relatively stress free. But, one local child was scared of something not even adults should have to fear.

“He was afraid that he was going to get shot and get killed by the police,” said Tammy Ragan, grandmother of 4-year-old Sawyer Shepherd.

Sawyer told Ragan about the trepidation multiple times over a two week period.

“It could have been the news, could have been something indirectly he heard, or maybe one of his classmates,” Ragan said. “I don’t know, but I did have to nip it in the bud.”

Ragan had help from the men and women sworn to protect her and Sawyer, to show him what wearing the badge really all is about.

“Everything needs to be positive,” Ragan said, with a tear in her eye. “Especially if you’re four years old.”

Sawyer got to meet Surry County’s top cop, Sheriff Graham Atkinson, on Friday.

“He wanted to see the man that had the great big office,” Ragan said.

Atkinson spent over two hours with Sawyer. The pair played with model cars in Atkinson’s office, then went outside and checked out Atkinson’s SUV.

Sawyer put on Atkinson’s badge and walked around the office, being introduced as the “new sheriff in town.” Afterwards, Sawyer had his fingerprints taken and was given a badge of his own to take home.

“It was very positive,” Ragan said. “A wonderful experience for him.”

Ragan is sure that, since Sawyer already had the fear of police at such a young age, other children must have the same apprehension.

“It’s heartbreaking to know that they’re afraid,” she said. “The world is cruel, and I would give him anything if I could just take him back in time to grow up back when I did.”

Ragan wants to encourage parents to introduce their children to law enforcement officers at a young age, in case they have similar fears, or to help prevent them from developing.

“It’s affecting all the children and that’s my main concern,” she said.

By the end of the visit, Sawyer was under a table in Atkinson’s office saying, “this is my home.”