SANDY — Law enforcement officers are mourning the loss of one of their own.
Sandy Police Chief Sam Dawson was killed Monday night in a motorcycle accident near the border of Wasatch and Summit counties.
Dawson, 56, was riding his maroon 2000 Harley Davidson on U-35 at 8:53 p.m. about 10 miles east of Woodland when a deer jumped over the guardrail onto the road as he rounded a turn.
"I don't think he had a chance," Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Ted Tingey said.
The collision with the deer threw Dawson about 160 feet, Tingey said. His friend who was riding behind Dawson and several other witnesses rushed to his aid.
Dawson was not wearing a helmet and suffered massive head trauma. An ambulance crew from South Summit pronounced him dead at the scene at 10 p.m., Tingey said.
"He will be sorely missed," Sandy Police Lt. Kevin Thacker said. "His death leaves a void in the police department."
Dawson had nearly 35 years of law enforcement experience. He started as an reserve officer with the Murray Police Department before becoming a deputy in the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office in 1971.
In 1977, he joined the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office and was chief investigator before becoming Sandy police chief in 1994.
"He was like the foundation for all the county chiefs," West Valley Police Chief Alan Kerstein said. "Sam was clearly the rock."
Kerstein said since he moved to Utah in 2000, Dawson quickly became one of his closest friends. He credits Dawson for being his mentor as a police chief. "He kind of adopted me as a little brother," Kerstein said.
Kerstein called Dawson's death a shock and a terrible loss.
Dawson is survived by his wife, Brigette, two sons and a daughter, Angela. One of Dawson's sons, Sam Jr., is an officer with the Murray Police Department and the other, Christopher, is a firefighter for Sandy.
Assistant Chief Ron Bullock will serve as acting chief until a new chief is chosen.