‘He died a hero,’ Fallen Chambers County deputy J’Mar Abel laid to rest

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, June 28, 2022

On Monday, law enforcement personnel from Chambers County and all across the state of Alabama, and even the state of Georgia, descended upon the small town of Munford in Talladega County to pay their final respects to fallen Deputy Sheriff J’Mar Colin Abel.

Along with the outpouring of law enforcement support, many prominent members of the Chambers County community made the nearly two-hour drive to pay their respects. State Representative Debbie Wood, Commissioners Doug Jones, James Williams, Debra Riley and Sam Bradford, Chambers County Revenue Commissioner Beth Abney, Lanett Police Chief Johnny Wood, LaFayette Fire and EMS Chief James Doody, and Republican candidate for Chambers County sheriff Jeff Nelson were all in attendance.

J’Mar died when he lost control of his vehicle while assisting Roanoke Police Department in a chase that made its way into Chambers County.

The church service took place at Kelly Springs Missionary Baptist Church with Bishop Walt Higgins officiating. The church nave was filled with law enforcement, mainly to the right side of the church, and family to the left side.

Higgins prayed as Abel’s family filed into the church and up to the casket to say their final goodbyes. J’Mars’ fiancee, Jasmine Gaddist, could not hold back her emotions and, at one point, had to be assisted out of the church to regain her composer before returning. Gaddist is pregnant with the couple’s daughter.

Able’s aunt, associate pastor Wanda J. Turner, called J’Mar blessed before she began reading from scripture.

“I thank God for all his family members everywhere,” Turner said. “He has so many aunts, so many uncles. He was a blessed person, blessed.”

When it came to reflections, J’Mar was heralded as a great son, great partner and a well-respected deputy sheriff.

Patrol Sargeant Derick Wright, who served as J’Mar’s field training officer (FTO), talked about his first meeting with J’Mar during the interview process at the detention center.

“First time I met Deputy Abel was during an interview with Maj. Mike Parrish and myself at the detention facility, where he was applying to be a correctional officer,” Wright said. “To say he blew his interview out of the park would actually be an understatement.”

Wright talked about how J’Mar excelled at everything once hired at the Chambers County Jail on June 20, 2020, and on April 19, Wright said J’Mar was transferred to the sheriff’s office, where Wright’s job was to prepare J’Mar for the academy and nit-pick everything he could.

“As his FTO, it was my job to pick him apart every day, and there just wasn’t anything to pick apart,” Wright said. “Deputy Abel was, in my opinion, the absolute definition of squared away. From his uniform appearance to his boots being shined. When he walked in the patrol office, he just had this confidence in his appearance, in my opinion, that he had been doing this for years.”

This confidence likely came from his father, Martin Abel, an Air Force veteran. Martin took a deep breath before taking the podium to talk about his son, J’Mar. Martin told the mourners that J’Mar always wanted to get into law enforcement, despite Martin’s attempts to steer him to the Air Force.

“Saying that he wanted to be in law enforcement is an understatement,” Martin said. “I couldn’t stop him even though I wanted him to go into the Air Force. He said no. Law enforcement is where I want to go.”

The bond Martin and J’Mar shared was apparent when Martin spoke about his and his son’s conversations while J’Mar was in the academy. Martin said J’Mar would call him often at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Department Certified Academy to fill him in on what he was learning and ask Martin for assistance.

“I remember when he would tell me what was going on,” Martin said. “He asked me, ‘Hey, Dad. They got us shining our boots here. Can you teach me how to shine my boots?’ And I told him, I said, ‘Well, it’s been a long time since I shined some black leather boots. But I’ll show you how to do it.”

The father and son spent many days at the gun range, discussing J’Mar’s career and future aspirations. Martin said there was no doubt that law enforcement was where J’Mar wanted to be, and J’Mar had a goal of joining the United States Marshal Service.

“We had talked; we had lengthy, lengthy conversations about his career, and it was law enforcement,” Martin said. “His next step was progressing from the local level to the federal level. He asked me several times, ‘Hey, Dad, what do you think? What federal agency [do] you think I should go into? [As] soon as the words US Marshal rolled out of my mouth, he was like, that’s what I want to do.”

In closing, Martin asked everyone to remember his son died a hero.

“I’m going to miss him, I’m going to honor him, and I ask each and every one of you here in the church and also at home that keep in mind, just have it in you that my son was a hero,” Martin said. “He died a hero, he died doing what he loved that’s all I asked you guys when you start memorizing and having him in your memories about Jamar, I don’t wish this on any father. You shouldn’t be burying your kid.”

Chambers County Sheriff Sid Lockhart took a moment to thank everyone that took the time to attend the service and talked about how amazed he has been with the outpouring of support, not just from Chambers County and the state of Alabama. Lockhart said he has received calls, cards and gifts from all across the United States.

After the church service, the procession headed a few hundred yards to Kelly Springs Memorial Gardens, where J’Mar received full police honors. As the family and all attending members of law enforcement gathered near a tent, a lone bugler played taps as members of the Lee County Honor Guard gave J’Mar a 21-gun salute. That was followed by handing off of the American flag that draped the coffin to surviving members of the family. Shortly after, from the loudspeaker of a Chambers County patrol SUV, Chambers County 911 Communications Supervisor Darlene Billingsley was heard calling J’Mar’s end of watch.

“Chambers County dispatch to 1224 … Chambers County dispatch to 1224 … Chambers County dispatch to all surrounding agencies, Chambers County Deputy J’Mar Abel unit 1224 has taken his final 10-42. Rest easy, sir. We’ll take it from here,” Billingsley said.