COMMUNITY HEROES: Carter Co. Sheriff’s office lieutenant hangs up badge after 30 years

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CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) Protecting the Carter County Community for 30 and a half years, Lieutenant Mike Fraley is hanging up his badge at the Carter County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO), Thursday, Dec. 12. The community hero reflected on his time with the force.

“I’ve got mixed emotions on it. I’m a little scared. I’ve never been retired before but I’m also excited to see what’s out there on the other side of not being an officer because I’ve been an officer since I was 21 years old,” Lt. Mike Fraley said.

Lieutenant Fraley began his career in law enforcement in May of 1989, at the Carter County Sheriff’s Office.

“Just watching a young man jus to go that far in that many years is a real success story. You don’t see that many people stay in one job for that many years. He always had opportunities to go to bigger or get paid more at other agencies in the state but he stayed right here in Carter County,” Longtime friend, Kelly Gagley said. “Everything that there is at the sheriff’s department, and every department he’s worked in, I just think that very admirable. He’s a hero for that.”

Gagley is a former probation officer who started in law enforcement around the same time Lt. Fraley did.

Lieutenant Fraley’s father was a police officer all of his life, but he was not interested in the career until he went to Morrisville, North Carolina when he was managing a restaurant.

He said, “There was a couple of police officers that came in on a regular basis. I started talking to them and became friends with them. The way they carry themselves. In some of the conversations, I thought, I may want to do this.”

One of the biggest changes in his life was about two years ago, when he joined the advisory board for the drug court. Lieutenant Fraley told News Channel 11’s Pheben Kassahun that it was an eye-opening experience.

“About two years ago, one of the judges, Judge Stacy Street, asked me if I would be willing to sit on an advisory board for the drug court. When I first started my career, it seemed like putting people in jail was the answer to everything and over three decades, jail is not the answer for everybody. There are people that have addictions that really need a lot of help that jail is not going to provide for you. Serving on the drug court team for the last couple years has really opened my eyes and let me see things different than what I’m used to.”

Lieutenant Fraley said he also teaches firearms at Walker State Community College, in Morristown. He passes on what he learned on the force to eager students. He described his job as a never-ending saga of trying to work in law enforcement because there is something new everyday.

He recalled the day he was shot by a suspect, more than 20 years ago.

“The first thought was he would be gone when I got there because I had been so far away from the call that actually came in. When I got there, the man was actually there. As I was getting out of my car, he opened fire on me and the first arm hit me in the upper right arm. When I got hit in the arm, I couldn’t draw my weapon out and when I finally was able to draw my weapon, I had gotten shot dead center in my chest and two in the abdomen. It was just basically being on defense from there, just trying to keep them from continuing to shoot. I returned fire but I didn’t hit him. He hid behind a car and he was killed later in a gun battle a few miles up the road from there,” the lieutenant explained.

Gagley recalled, “We were eating one day, and we always eat lunch together. He got a call that day and ended up getting shot. He was in intensive care in the hospital and he was out of work for a while and he came right back to work. He didn’t get a desk job, he went right back into the field.”

The suspect later died in a gun battle between police, just a few miles up the road, according to Lt. Fraley.

Gagley said, “That’s a very tough field to be in so we admire him very much for that.”

“I did a lot of things wrong that day, and the lord spared me,” Lt. Fraley recalled, “I was able to pass on to younger officers, the mistakes that I’ve made, hopefully they won’t make those mistakes and get hurt. That’s my ultimate goal. It always has been since that day.”

The lieutenant continues to be a role model to his fellow colleagues.

“I’ve never actually had him as a supervisor but he has always been a role model to me at this department. I’ve always looked up to him as training officer in any role he’s ever been in,” Sergeant Douglas Mahan.

Sergeant Mahan has worked with Lt. Fraley at the CCSO for eight and a half years.

“He’s just down to earth. He’s somebody you can talk to about anything, and know that he’s going to be there for you good or bad,” Sgt. Mahan explained. “Everything he’s been through for this department, for this community. He bends over backwards to do anything that anybody needs him to do. He’s probably one of the greatest men I’ve ever known.”

Lieutenant Fraley hopes whoever is just starting in the force, to always remember the priorities in your life.

“The main thing would be to keep your priorities straight. Keep your faith, love your families. Put those things in front of your job and everything else will fall into place. Treat others the way you would want to be treated. Just always remember to lift other people up and not bring them down,” Lt. Fraley said.

He explained there have been a few influential people in his life who have changed the way he views things.

Dr. Josh Wandell, who has Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS, is one of them.

“Josh, he’s actually over the last couple of years showed me how I shouldn’t walk in life, even though he’s confined to a wheelchair. He ans Dr. Bobby Smith are probably the two most influential people in the last five or ten years in my career. Dr. Bobby Smith was a trooper who got shot, blinded and he lost not one but two children. He went through some really tough times but he always stays strong and always motived police officers who stay strong and not let things get you down,” Lt. Fraley said. “A blind man taught me how to see and a man in a wheelchair showed me how I should walk.”

Tomorrow at 3 p.m. at the Carter County Sheriff’s Office will have a retirement gathering for Lieutenant Mike Fraley.

The public is welcome.

If you know someone who makes our community a better place to live, we want to hear from you! Nominate them to be an ABC Tri-Cities Community Hero! Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to nominate them.

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