ST. HELENA PARISH, LA (WAFB) - St. Helena Parish is grieving the loss of a deputy, teacher, and friend. Deputy Albert Watson was killed early Sunday morning by an alleged drunk driver.
Louisiana State Police investigators say Deana Collier, 52, of Sandersville, Mississippi crashed into the back of Watson's personal car and left the scene. She is currently behind bars at the Tangipahoa Parish Jail and is charged with vehicular homicide and hit and run.
Deputy Watson was the School Resource Officer (SRO) at St. Helena Arts and Technology Academy (SHATA) and worked ten years for the St. Helena Sheriff's Office.
Law enforcement officers from several agencies made the short, but heartbreaking journey on Monday morning from Hammond to Denham Springs to escort their brother, Deputy Watson, home. His boss and friend, Sheriff Nat Williams, says Watson, who did photography at special events on the weekend, was driving on I-12 on his way home when Collier rear-ended and killed him.
"You don't question the Lord, but you know, on this one I had to ask why because Albert was a good man," said Williams.
So many people are asking that question. Watson's colleague and high school classmate, Joe Chaney, says his friend loved to cook, and Watson made sure no one left hungry.
"I remember we were leaving the class reunion, he flagged me down he said, 'You didn't taste this,' and he brought me a plate to my truck as we left and we did not know this would be the last time," said Chaney.
His co-worker, St. Helena Chief of Operations Michael Martin says you would rarely find Watson on the road in a police car. He says Watson, a former educator, was eager to be in the schools. "He would even take his time off from lunch to spend it with the kids in the lunch room. Albert was a great man. He worked hard for the sheriff's department. We are going to deeply miss Albert," said Martin.
But perhaps the people who will miss him the most are the little ones who looked forward to his warm welcome every day. Black ribbons now hang from the very spot SHATA Principal Bernard McPherson says Albert would greet students. "His relationship with students was one that you could hardly put into words. A lot of them called him 'pawpaw' because he had that kind of influence to the children. He was able to redirect them when they made bad choices, but he was always there to support them," said McPherson.
McPherson says he has encouraged his staff to carry Watson's kind nature and wide smile with them as they console students who may be too young to understand why the man known as "pawpaw" won't be back. Watson's friends are asking everyone to remember the community he loved. "Just pray for the department, pray for his family, that they would get through this, and we know without a doubt, God will help us get through it," said Chaney.
The school held a balloon release for Tuesday afternoon in Deputy Watson's memory. His funeral is set for October 7 at 2 p.m. at the Apostolic Assembly of Christ Temple, located at 48123 Hwy. 16 in Denham Springs. Law enforcement officials are asked to meet at MJR Funeral Home, located at 87 Paddio Johnson Ln. in Greensburg, at 10 a.m. to help transport Watson's body to the church.