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Community laments death of longtime officer

Flags are flying at half-staff in Ashland in honor of Malcus Williams, a 21-year veteran of the police department who suffered a “major medical event” while on a domestic call Friday evening.

The cause of Williams' death is considered personal information and won't be released, said Ashland police Chief Tighe O’Meara. “The important thing is that it was not felonious, not an attack, nothing malicious," O'Meara said. He said Williams was in his "early 50s."

Williams collapsed at 7:25 p.m. Friday and was rushed by Ashland Fire & Rescue to Providence Medford Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at about 9 p.m.

As custom dictates, any police officer who dies while on duty is escorted by a full procession of fellow officers and “never left unguarded,” O’Meara said. At about midnight Friday, a procession accompanied Williams' body as it was taken to the Litwiller-Simonsen Funeral Home. On Saturday, a procession escorted his body to the medical examiner in Central Point and back to the funeral home.

O’Meara said Williams “made people feel calm and respected. He did not talk down to anyone. He was a very gentle, loving member of the community. … The memorial will be at Ashland High School because we expect a large number of people to attend.”

Williams was a natural with children and sometimes acted as school resource officer at the high school.

Williams leaves his wife, Ona, and three daughters, Savannah, Georgia and Brooklyn. Donations may be made to the nonprofit Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation at www.oregonfallenbadge.com or by contacting any US Bank Branch, and referencing the Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation and Officer Malcus Williams fund.

“A lot of resources are being brought to support the family. They’ll be very well supported going forward,” said O’Meara, adding that the police department is endorsing only that foundation as a means of contributing to the family.

Ashland police's Facebook thread overflowed with grief over the loss and gratitude for Williams' service to the community. Vanessa Houk wrote, “He was truly a good man and our community suffers a huge loss without him. Our kids went to school together and I would often see him there with his family. … My heart hurts for his family and his many friends.”

City Code Compliance Officer Kevin Flynn notes, “One of the finest people I ever knew. Honor to work with. Man of integrity, honor, a brother and a friend. Proud Father. He will be missed. God bless.”

Christine Compeau wrote, “Beyond his dedication to his duties, he was just an amazing example of a human being and incredible father. Along with celebrating his life, let’s live by his example. You will be missed, Malcus.”

Lee Ann Thorson said, “Wow, so sad. He pulled me over the other day because my taillights weren’t on. He was so kind and helpful even though I didn’t even have my license with me. We need more police officers like him in our city.”

To a Facebook friend, Kim Mason wrote, “Do you remember that night a couple years ago during the summer that we hung out with him downtown!? He was the COOLEST cop in Ashland & I always felt safe knowing he had our backs.”

A celebration of the life and memory of Williams is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday, March 17, in the Ashland High School Gymnasium. For overflow attendees, a simulcast live stream will be presented in the Ashland High School Theatre.

Flags in front of the police department will remain at half-staff until after the March 17 memorial.

— Reach Ashland freelance writer John Darling at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

(March 6: Story updated to include start time and venue of memorial.)