Lieutenant Willard Edward Vaughan

Lieutenant Willard Edward Vaughan

Roanoke Rapids Police Department, North Carolina

End of Watch Monday, May 9, 1977

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Willard Edward Vaughan

Lieutenant Willard Vaughan was shot and killed while responding to a silent alarm at a convenience store.

Lieutenant Vaughan and another officer, and a deputy sheriff responded to the silent alarm at a convenience store. He drove past the scene and met with the deputy down the road. Lieutenant Vaughan and the deputy started driving back toward the crime scene with Lieutenant Vaughan's police vehicle in front. The deputy slowed down to look down a dirt road when he saw the brake lights of Lieutenant Vaughan's police vehicle come on. Lieutenant Vaughan exited his vehicle, and the deputy stated that he saw a tremendous amount of gunfire.

One of the two suspects ran in front of Lieutenant Vaughan's vehicle and opened fire at close range. Lieutenant Vaughan was hit four times and the suspect one time. The deputy pulled up, and the suspect shot at the deputy, hitting his vehicle. The deputy then shot and hit the suspect a second time.

The two subjects were arrested at the scene. A third suspect was arrested hours later in Emporia, Virginia. Lieutenant Vaughan's killer, 18, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison on September 19, 1977. He was still in prison on June 15, 2023.

Lieutenant Vaughan had served with the Roanoke Rapids Police Department for 21 years and was planning to retire in three months. He was survived by his wife and son.


  • Age 64
  • Tour 21 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Gun; Unknown type
  • Offender Sentenced to life


Most Recent Reflection

View all 15 Reflections

Lieutenant Sun Vaughn was a fine officer. I saw him nearly every afternoon as I walked home from RRHS. Oftentimes he would stop and chat for a few minutes. Occasionally these chats would be as we drank a soda at Mr. Woods store on 7th. Street. Lt Vaughn understood community policing decades before it became all the rage. His death was a tremendous shock. His was the first police officer funeral that I attended but sadly not the last. Lt Vaughn had a tremendous influence on my career decisions. This July I will pass 40 years in law enforcement. Lieutenant Sun Vaughn is not forgotten. A true hero.

Colonel Neil Baxley
Beaufort County SC Sheriff's Office

May 6, 2023

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