‘We have the watch from here’: Smyrna officer killed by suspected DUI driver

His was the voice other officers wanted to hear when they needed help. Officer Christopher Eric Ewing was a hard worker, recently honored for saving someone’s life, according to the Smyrna Police Department.

On Tuesday, Officer Ewing, an Air Force veteran, was remembered for his dedication to service. Ewing was killed in the line of duty when he was hit by a suspected drunk driver late Monday, according to police. Ewing was the first metro Atlanta officer killed this year in the line of duty.

“As chief, I can tell you this hits home and it hurts,” Smyrna Police Chief Joseph Bennett said Tuesday afternoon. “We are asking that you keep Officer Ewing’s family and his Smyrna police family in your thoughts and prayers as we try to cope with our loss.”

RELATED: 3 Georgia officers killed in the line of duty in 2020

Ewing, 34, was married and had three daughters, according to the police department. After serving 10 years in the Air Force, Ewing joined the Smyrna PD two years ago, working the night shift, Bennett said. He’d recently applied to join the DUI task force.

Late Monday, Ewing was on duty when he encountered a suspected drunk driver, according to police. Ewing’s blue lights and siren were on, but the driver of a Chevrolet Tahoe failed to yield, striking the patrol car, according to the Georgia State Patrol.

Ewing was southbound on South Cobb drive, according to the GSP, and the driver of the Tahoe, later identified as Robert Lorenzo Cox, was northbound. When Cox attempted to make a left, he turned into the path of Ewing, GSP said.

The impact of the collision sent the mangled cruiser into the parking lot of a gas station at the intersection of South Cobb and Oak drives around 11:20 p.m. A gas station employee heard the crash and called 911. The woman, who asked not to be identified, said others in the parking lot rushed to try to free the officer, but were unsuccessful.

Credit: Cobb County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Cobb County Sheriff's Office

After the crash, a witness reported seeing Cox remove two beer bottles from the SUV and throw them into a trash can before emergency crews arrived. Investigating troopers said they verified the witness’ account using surveillance footage.

According to a trooper, one of the beer bottles was opened. Cox was “unsteady on his feet, his eyes were very watery in appearance, and he slurred his speech,” his warrant states. He refused all field sobriety testing.

Cox, 35, of Duluth, was arrested Tuesday morning on charges of driving under the influence and homicide by vehicle in the first degree, both felonies. He is also facing a host of misdemeanor traffic charges, including tampering with evidence, open container violation, failure to yield and not wearing a seat belt.

Cox was treated for injuries at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital before being booked into the Cobb jail. He was being held without bond late Tuesday.

Ewing is the third law enforcement officer from Georgia killed in the line of duty this year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. All three died in vehicle crashes.

On Jan. 23, Long County Deputy Sheriff Sheldon Gordon Whiteman, 44, was killed during a vehicle pursuit, according to the Long County sheriff. Whiteman was a married father of three.

Bibb County Sheriff’s Deputy Kenterrous Taylor, 27, was killed March 18 when he crashed on the way to a burglary call. Taylor lost control of his patrol car, struck a wall and was thrown from the vehicle, according to investigators. He was also a father of three and engaged to be married, according to his obituary.

A Henry County police dog, Thorr, was also killed in a Jan. 9 crash.

Ewing is the second officer from the Smyrna Police Department killed in the line of duty. Cpl. Stacy Milton Fuller, a 10-year veteran of the department, died Nov. 16, 1984, in a vehicle crash, according to the Officers Down page. He was responding to an officer-involved shooting at the time.

Late Tuesday, Smyrna police posted a message on its Facebook page to honor Ewing.

“Officer Ewing was a friend to all in the department and was a hard-working officer who led by example,” the statement said. “He was an officer that when you called for backup you wanted to hear his voice on the radio saying he was heading your way. His sense of humor and contagious smile will be greatly missed. Rest In Peace brother, we have the watch from here.”