Dickson County, TN – Dickson County Sheriff’s Sergeant Daniel Baker was murdered in the line of duty early Wednesday morning, after he responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle.
Sgt. Baker, 32, drove to the rural area at approximately 7 a.m., but dispatch was unable to reach him afterwards.
Using the vehicle’s GPS system, deputies were able to locate the patrol car near the boundary line between Dickson and Hickman counties, which was two or three miles away from the initial area of the suspicious vehicle report, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Susan Niland said, according to WKRN.
Sgt. Baker was found deceased inside his patrol vehicle and had suffered a gunshot wound.
“There's not much I can say today, but our hearts are shattered," Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe said, according to WKRN. "This is one of our best deputies. He's a supervisor. He's worked his way up to sergeant on patrol, and he's one of the ones who put it all on the line every day to keep our community safe.”
“He was doing that again today,” Sheriff Bledsoe added.
Sgt. Baker’s mother, Veronica Bryan, issued a statement to WZTV in the wake of her son’s death.
“I am unable to communicate verbally at this time,” Bryan said. “My son was a kind, compassionate young man. He loved his family and adored his wife and daughter.”
“He served his country in the Marines and came home to serve his community,” she continued. “He was a faithful servant to all. Please allow our family to process this tragedy.”
Sgt. Baker, a 10-year veteran of the force, joined the Dickson County Sheriff’s Department in 2008, after at least one deployment to Iraq, the Tennessean reported.
“He was a really good guy,” Parole Officer Joseph Coakley told the Tennessean, with tears in his eyes. “He loved his wife and kid. He loved to hunt and fish, and he had many friends.”
Sgt. Baker was already known as a hero in his small community.
In 2013, he and another deputy saved the life of a woman who was trapped underwater in an overturned pickup truck outside of Charlotte, the Tennessean reported.
Sgt. Baker made headlines again in March, when he singlehandedly chased down a fleeing gunman who opened fire outside the Dickson Renaissance Center during a Mary Poppins production.
He was off-duty working security at the event at the time and pursued the suspect in his personal vehicle.
Sgt. Baker detained the gunman on Highway 46 and held him until uniformed officers arrived at the scene.
"It's a great loss. We are all one big family," 911 Dispatcher Gina Swaner told the Tennessean. "There are city limits, and there are county lines, but law enforcement is all one big continuous family."
Sgt. Baker is survived by his wife and daughter, Sheriff Bledsoe said, according to The Kansas City Star.
His father and stepbrother both work for the Spring Hill Police Department, the Tennessean reported.
A search for Sgt. Baker’s suspected killer, Steven Wiggins, remained underway on Wednesday night.
Investigators identified the violent felon using video footage and other evidence found at the scene, WKRN reported.
It was unknown wither Wiggins was on foot or if he had obtained a vehicle.
"We’ve gone door-to-door with teams looking for any signs of break-ins,” Niland said, according to WKRN. “There’s people out there with information."
Investigators noted that Wiggins should be considered armed and dangerous.
"What I want people to know is even though our hearts are broken, we're driven with focus and resolve to make sure this person is captured,” Sheriff Bledsoe added.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Dickson County Sheriff's Sergeant Daniel Baker, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Sgt. Daniel Baker, your life mattered.