Detective William Thomas Whitehead

Detective William Thomas Whitehead

Jacksonville Police Department, North Carolina

End of Watch Thursday, May 28, 1981

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William Thomas Whitehead

Detective William Whitehead drowned after being beaten unconscious, handcuffed, and pushed into a river by two suspects.

Detective Whitehead was questioning the two men outside of a bar on suspicion of sexually assaulting a juvenile female. The two men attacked him and handcuffed him behind the back with his own handcuffs. They then threw him into the New River, under the Old Bridge at, Court Street. A medical examination determined that Detective Whitehead was alive when he was thrown into the river.

Both suspects were apprehended and charged with murder.

One of the suspects was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He was denied parole in January 2015. The other suspect was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 15 years. He was paroled September 7th, 1988.

Detective Whitehead was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War and had served with the Jacksonville Police Department for five years. He was survived by his wife.


  • Age Not available
  • Tour 5 years
  • Badge Not available
  • Military Veteran

Incident Details

  • Cause Assault
  • Weapon Person
  • Offender Sentenced to life

Most Recent Reflection

View all 41 Reflections

I cannot understand how one of the two suspects is out of jail after committing such a heinous crime against one of Americas LEO’s. I won’t focus on that and the crooked and broken justice system we have, and I obviously don’t mean that the way our politicians and activists today mean it when they scream about it but rather by virtue of the fact that some one like one of these suspects can be out of jail already. Rather, I’ll focus on the heroism and sacrifice that this true hero made on that day and the thoughts, prayers and love we will always show him and honor him with everyday. Detective Whitehead, thank you for both your military and police service and always know that your sacrifice is one that will never be forgotten. God Bless you and your family.

Detective Cpl/3 Steven Rizzo
Delaware State Police (Retired)

July 7, 2020

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