Lilburn honors police officer killed on duty 30 years ago

Michael Hester, 26, was shot to death while apprehending a robbery suspect
Lilburn police Officer Michael Hester was killed in the line of duty in 1994. He was 26.

Credit: Lilburn police

Credit: Lilburn police

Lilburn police Officer Michael Hester was killed in the line of duty in 1994. He was 26.

He played football at Winder-Barrow High School, then joined the Marines, and dreamed of one day becoming a GBI agent.

Michael Tarone Hester had also served as a Winder police officer and Barrow County deputy when he joined the Lilburn Police Department in June 1993. He was Lilburn’s first African-American officer, the department said, and a married father of three.

But less than a year later, Hester was killed in the line of duty. He died April 19, 1994, when he exchanged gunfire with a robbery suspect who was also killed. Hester was 26.

On Friday, the 30th anniversary of Hester’s death, the Lilburn police lobby was renamed the Michael T. Hester Memorial Lobby, the department said. The office temporarily closed during the lobby dedication, but it did not affect emergency dispatchers, the department said.

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“We always promise people at the time (to never forget) and then it kind of fades away,” Lilburn Police Chief Chris Dusik said after the ceremony. “This way it kind of enshrines that we’re never going to forget.”

Hester made a routine traffic call about 9:30 a.m. on his final day of service, but wasn’t heard from after that, investigators said after his death.

More than an hour later, a fellow officer found Hester and the man accused of killing him, 26-year-old Danzell Lee Hayes, shot to death in the driveway of a home at 212 Rockbridge Road, according to Gwinnett police.

The bodies were lying beneath the open driver’s side door of a blue Lincoln Continental with a North Carolina license plate, according to police. Hester’s car was behind the Lincoln.

Hester’s handgun and another weapon were lying nearby, along with several spent shells and Hayes’ driver’s license and insurance card.

“I was in total shock when I found out,” Ron Houck, then the city’s public safety director, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the shooting. “Mike Hester was an outstanding officer and an asset to our department. He made a deep impression on the people he came in contact with, and he was very well-liked.’’

Hester remains the only Lilburn officer killed in the line of duty. After his death, he was named the city’s officer of the year and a bridge was named in his honor.

On Friday, Dusik said a painting featuring Hester now has a home in the police department’s lobby.

“Now there will be a permanent reminder of Hester’s service,” Dusik said. “Everyone who walks into the Lilburn police headquarters will pass by a painting of Hester standing next to his patrol car and a sign explaining that he made the ultimate sacrifice protecting the citizens of Lilburn.”