LUMBERTON — In the hours following the shooting death of Master Police Officer Jeremiah Goodson, the slain officer has been called a devoted father and husband, a dedicated and model police officer, and a school resource officer adored by students and teachers at Lumberton High School.
“Our kids were his kids,” said Marcia McNeill, a friend of Goodson’s for several years. She fought back tears while speaking to reporters Tuesday at the Shell station on Fayetteville Road, where investigators say Goodson was shot several times about 11 a.m. while trying to serve a warrant for arrest.
“He got to know the community,” McNeill said. “He worked at the schools. He worked at the complexes. I know my child got in little spats and he was there. He was just a good cop; he worked with every and anybody.”
McNeill said Goodson, who was black, was not “race or color coded,” and that he would come to visit her family in their home. He even gave her his cell phone number in case she needed a helping hand..
Goodson, who was 33 years, had been employed with the Lumberton Police Department since June 14, 2006, and worked as a resource officer for Lumberton High School while serving in the Juvenile Division during 2010. Before becoming a police officer, Goodson worked as a mechanic for the Lumberton Public Works Department, where he was hired on Nov. 29, 2000.
Goodson and his wife had a young daughter, and his wife is expecting their second while, which is due any day now, according to Police Chief Mike McNeill said. There were unconfirmed reports that she went into labor on Tuesday. McNeill did confirm she was at Southeastern Regional Medical Center.
“He kept us out of trouble,” said Shmaya Newton, a former student at Lumberton High School. “He’d come to the office and be like, ‘Look, y’all need to do better or y’all are gonna get kicked out of school.’ He had a good personality, he was friendly. He always told you little jokes to make you laugh when you were down.”
Newton said she was once suspended for two weeks, and that Goodson helped get her back into school.
“It wasn’t even my fault and he realized that. He talked to the principal and got me back in school for those two weeks I was out,” she said.
Newton’s friend Santanna Oxendine, described Goodson as a “loving, caring and kind officer.”
“People feel like police officers are bad people because they do their job, but he wasn’t,” Oxendine said. “He always let you know what police officers are there for.”
Oxendine and Newton recalled the last time they saw Goodson, less than a week ago while they were on West Fifth Street.
“He stopped and pulled over and talked to us,” Newton said. “He asked us how we were doing, he asked what we were gonna do after we got finished with school. We told him we were going to college, and he said, ‘That’s the best for y’all to do instead of being around Lumberton. Y’all need to do something with your life besides sitting around here.”
Oxendine’s father, John, said he knew Goodson well from his daughter’s time at Lumberton High School.
“He helped her out a lot,” he said. “She was one that liked to get in trouble, and he’d always talk to her. He made a good impression on her. … If you met him at school and met him on the road, he was the same person. He didn’t change.”
Lumberton High School Principal Stephen Gaskins told The Fayetteville Observer that Goodson was well liked and respected by the students.
“He was here often,” Gaskins said. “He was a very good person. The kids loved him. A great person, police officer and great man.”
A Facebook group created in Goodson’s memory, “Rest In Peace ~~ Jeremiah Goodson,” had more than 400 members by early this morning. People shared thoughts, memories, prayers and pictures of the fallen officer. Memorials were also being left at odmp.org, a website decided to lawmen who have died in the line of duty.
Chick-fil-A of Lumberton announced that its grand opening weekend next month will be dedicated to Goodson’s memory, and that it plans to hold a fundraiser to benefit Goodson’s wife and children.
In the meantime, people around the county mourn the loss of the officer and remember his contributions.
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” Marcia McNeill said. “I’m gonna miss him.”
Karen Higley, head of the community watch for East Lumberton, is asking any that American flags fly at half mast until Goodson’s funeral.