Dedication ceremony to remember fallen officer

Officer Chris Magill

Officer Chris Magill

NORCROSS -- He was the kind of guy you wanted backing you up on calls, and someone the people of Gwinnett were proud of as he worked in his dream job.

That's what Dan Branch remembers of his colleague of more than 10 years who will be honored on Monday at a re-dedication ceremony in Norcross. The James C. "Chris" Magill Memorial Bridge at Interstate 85 and the Jimmy Carter Boulevard interchange will be featured at a 1 p.m. ceremony at the Gwinnett County Police Westside Precinct.

Magill was killed on duty on May 23, 1993 during a traffic stop on I-85. He was waiting in his patrol car for the arrival of a tow truck to impound a vehicle that was operated by a drunken driver. While waiting, another drunken driver drove into the back of his patrol car, and Magill later died from injuries sustained in the incident.

He was the fourth Gwinnett Police officer to die in the line of duty in the history of the department.

Magill was a 10-year member of the Gwinnett County Police Department who served on the DUI Task Force. Magill, who was 39, was survived by his parents, daughter and son. He would have been 60 on June 8.

This ceremony was organized by the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District because executive director Chuck Warbington said the group wanted to recognize the work to improve the bridge and the work Gwinnett police officers do.

"He was somebody doing their job to make this area a safer place," Warbington said. "Today, it's a good time to recognize his service, and his family for their loss."

His younger brother Tim, who is also the project manager on the bridge working for E.R. Snell Contractors, said if you were Magill's friend, you were his friend for life.

"Time's a big healer," Tim Magill said. "No question about that. It being 20 years, it probably makes you think about it a little more, but not a day goes by that we don't think about Chris. It was a big blow 20 years ago, and still is."

Gwinnett Police Chief Charles Walters worked side-by-side with Magill for about a year on the midnight shift in the Buford area several years before the incident. Walters said the ceremony is a reminder to a new group of people of the sacrifice that Magill made.

"He was just a great person to be around, certainly a competent police officer," Walters said. "He had a great sense of humor, always a smile."

Tim Magill said several positives came after his brother's death, including J.C. Magill Elementary being named in his honor, and a "silent witness law" that allows video evidence to be presented in court if someone can't be there to testify.

"I hope we never forget Chris," Branch said. "He loved the citizens of this county."