Deputy Robert “RJ” Leonard discovered a patrol car drowned in a river

The Meigs County community and law enforcement family are mourning the tragic loss of Deputy Robert “R.J.” Leonard, whose dedication and service were cut short under heartbreaking circumstances.

On Thursday, February 15, a somber discovery was made when Deputy Leonard’s patrol car was found submerged in the Tennessee River, marking a sorrowful conclusion to an intensive search that began after his mysterious disappearance following an arrest.

Deputy Leonard, 35, a committed and promising addition to the force, responded to a disturbance on a bridge late Wednesday evening, resulting in the detention of a woman involved in a dispute. His commitment to duty was evident through his final message to his wife, signaling the arrest—a testament to his dedication to ensuring the safety of his community.

The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, alongside the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Chattanooga Police Department, honored Deputy Leonard with a procession to the Knoxville Regional Medical Examiner’s Office. This gesture of respect underscores the deep bonds within the law enforcement community and the collective grief over the loss of one of their own.

The investigation into the unfortunate incident, led by multiple agencies, points to a tragic accident. Early indications suggest that Deputy Leonard, while navigating a poorly lit area and multitasking with communications, may have missed a crucial turn, leading to the devastating outcome.

This incident serves as a somber reminder of the challenges and risks our law enforcement officers face daily.

Deputy Leonard’s service, albeit brief, was marked by his eagerness to contribute positively to his community, a sentiment echoed by Meigs County Sheriff Jackie Melton. The loss of Deputy Leonard, who is survived by his wife and three children, is not only a profound personal tragedy for his family but also a significant loss for the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office, which he served with honor and dedication.

As we reflect on Deputy Leonard’s commitment to public safety and the tragic circumstances of his passing, it is a moment to acknowledge the sacrifices made by law enforcement officers in their unwavering commitment to protect and serve. Deputy Leonard’s memory will live on as a reminder of the dedication and courage that defines the best of our community protectors.