Kentucky deputy killed in the line of duty remembered in hometown

Published: May. 25, 2023 at 4:53 PM EDT
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CYNTHIANA, Ky. (WKYT) - Deputy Caleb Conley’s loss continues to be felt in his hometown of Cynthiana

WKYT spoke to one educator who watched a man live out his dreams right before their eyes.

“We are so heartbroken in this district with his loss because he meant so many things to so many people,” said Jenny Lynn Hatter.

Long before Caleb Conley became a decorated Scott County Sheriff’s Deputy, he walked the halls here at Harrison County High School, and even though he was a transplant to the district, he made an impression over his four years.

“Caleb was just that student that had a wide-eyed wonder about everything,” said Hatter.

Jenny Lynn Hatter is the Chief Academic Officer for Harrison County. She was a first-time Assistant Principal when she first met Conley and knew then he was destined for great things.

“Caleb was always excited about the next thing. He was a leader in our ROTC, would later become, of course, an Army veteran and served in Afghanistan,” said Hatter.

Conley was special, she said, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thought differently.

“And we just all loved Caleb. There would be something wrong with you if you didn’t love Caleb. He’s just a wonderful person,” said Hatter.

For an educator watching a student live out their dreams is the ultimate goal, and for Conley, it started here at HCHS, where he was loved and still is. His tragic loss is still fresh, but for Hatter, she says there is something we can all learn from Caleb Conely and the way he served.

“I think we can all learn from this, and I know his family are lovely people, and they want us to learn from all this to be better to each other and more patient with each other and do better things,” said Hatter.

Deputy Caleb Conley didn’t just serve Scott County. He also wore that uniform proudly in Harrison County, where he lived. You are hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t call him a standup father, husband and friend.

At one Harrison County bar and grill, Deputy Conley was known well, and as we found out on Thursday, he will be missed there as well.

At Jo’s Bar and Grill in Cynthiana, officers are welcome. That’s because it’s owned by one. Chris Shields lives in Harrison County but works for the Bracken County Sheriff’s Office, and Caleb Conely wasn’t just a regular customer. He was a brother and a good friend.

“He was a guy that regardless of the policing, father, husband or friend, you wanted him to be around you, if that makes sense. Not many like him,” said Chris Shields.

The loss of a fellow deputy hits close to home for Shields.

“Most of the public, they don’t realize and understand the job that we do. He had no intentions of anything happening that day to him, make a reaffirmation stop, write a ticket and maybe make an arrest. He was going to go home to his wife and family,” said Shields.

At Jo’s, Conley was in often, and he and Shields would cut up, rib it each other. A chance to pick up food meant a chance for the two to get caught up.

“You know, at least a couple of days a week, he would come in and grab lunch. If not, when he was on night shift before we closed, we would feed him and send him on his way,” said Shields.

Shields says Deputy Conley was loyal, so loyal he couldn’t lure him away from his job in Scott County.

“I actually tried to recruit him, but he was so loyal to Tony Hampton and the Scott Co Sheriff’s Office that I knew there was no chance,” said Shields.

At Jo’s, they didn’t just lose a customer in Deputy Conely. Chris Shields says they lost one of the good ones altogether.

“He was dedicated, loyal and one heck of a job that he did,” said Shields.

Sandy Power was one of the countless people who stopped what she was doing on Tuesday when Deputy Caleb Conley’s procession brought him home to Cynthiana. In that moment, she was overcome with grief and pride for a hometown kid, and so she penned a poem.

On May 23rd, at high noon, the town of Cynthiana stood still.

The church bells rang slowly from atop the hill.

Mothers hushed their babies and old men pressed hands to hearts.

Young boys waved flags and workers paused to take part.

Every wet eye touched somehow by this man they may or may not have known.

A man of honor, of character, of sacrifice; one of our own.

He was Son, Husband, Father, Friend, Deputy 240

We honor you, Caleb Conley, our hero and forever part of the best of our story.

Sandy Arthur Power

For Power, the death of Deputy Conely hit close to home. Her nephew Josh Waits worked as a deputy alongside Conley in Scott Co. What she saw Tuesday for the fallen deputy was moving.

Power doesn’t always put pen to paper, but in the moment it just felt right.

“Even though we may not have known Caleb personally, we are all connected somehow in this small way, and that day that I saw everyone come out on the side of the road with their hands on their hearts and I thought this is who we are as a community,” said Power.

She’s hoping her simple words will mean something to Conley’s family.

“Maybe they can read this or have this, and they will know that we did stand still on this day, and we did take time to honor a man and to know that he had made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Power.

Jo’s Bar and Grill will host a benefit for Deputy Conley’s family next month. On June 24, they are having a live band taste of bourbon and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the family. Shields says to check their Facebook for more information as it gets closer.