Around 300 people gathered together last Thursday in the parking lot of the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office headquarters to remember deputy Jeff Watson.
Watson, 41, was a 10-year veteran with the Sheriff’s Office. He was killed in an accident on Sunday, Aug. 3 when he was involved in a four-vehicle wreck on Paul Maillard Road in Luling while responding to a call for back up.
As Watson’s body lay in state in the Sheriff’s Office foyer, an American flag draped over his coffin, numerous fellow deputies and community members lit candles in a vigil. Watson’s death was only the fourth fatality in the line of duty in the department’s 200-year history.
Fellow officers remembered Watson as more of a family member than a co-worker.
“I’m going to miss him. I miss him already. It is like losing a son,” Sgt. Richard Miguez said.
Miguez trained Watson when he first became a member of the B Shift about eight years ago.
“I got real close to Jeff through training. Jeff became a big part of my family. My kids considered Jeff their big brother. Jeff called my wife Momma and he would call me Daddy,” he said.
Watson became so close to the family that Miguez’s wife would even send food along with him while he was on patrol.“As long as I was on shift and working nights we would fill his Tupperware bowl and he was good to go,” Miguez said.
Miguez recalled Watson as a perfectionist.
“Everything with Jeff had to be perfect. His car had to be perfect and his hair had to be perfect. It took him 40 years to find the right woman, five months to find the right ring,” he said. “That’s just the way he was. You couldn’t have found a sweeter man or a better friend or a better brother.”
Watson brought that same sense of perfection to his mentoring of younger deputies when he became a training officer about four years ago.
Deputy Matthew Songy was trained by Watson and the two also built a relationship outside of work.
“He and I worked closely together. He became like a big brother to me,” he said.
When Jeff met his wife, Lynsey Parker Watson a few years ago, Songy was there as well.
“I was there for his bachelor party, his bridal procession. I stood in his wedding and I got close with his family,” he said.
Songy said Watson could be counted on to do everything by the book and train other officers in the same manner.
“He would tell you how it is. If it wasn’t the right way he’d say this is how you do it,” he said. “All he cared about was making sure that rookie or that person coming out on the street was able to do their job and survive. If somebody did a traffic stop wrong he’d take them over that traffic stop again and again until they got it right to make sure they came out in one piece.”
In addition to teaching him the right way to go about law enforcement, Songy said Watson also showed him how to build relationships within the community and really help parish residents.
“He showed his trainees how to do the police work and also the community work. He showed them how to stop and talk to the people and patrol your neighborhood,” he said.
When Songy finished training, he took over Watson’s old beat in the Killona area where Watson used to regularly check on at-risk parish residents.
“After he left that beat I took over those responsibilities of checking on people in the parish. Some of the elderly people, people that knew what was going on in their neighborhoods,” he said.
After the accident, Songy said he was reminded of the care Watson gave to those on his regular beat in the Paul Maillard area.
“I visited one of the business owners. She gets out there at 2 a.m. to clean up the parking lot and she said he’d stop when he was working the night shift to make sure she was alright,” he said. “He cared about the parish. He cared about all of the people.”
Sgt. Jimmy Robert was Watson’s superior officer on B Shift for eight years.
“He was a hell of a guy to work with. He cared about his job tremendously and he cared about the people and the community he worked with. People knew him everywhere, especially the neighborhood where he worked. That was the kind of guy he was. He just got along with everybody. Everybody loved him,” he said.
Robert said Watson’s death will be a big loss for the Sheriff’s Office.
“If he saw somebody doing something they shouldn’t be doing on our shift, he would let them know,” Robert said. “He kept everybody in line, almost like another supervisor.”
As pallbearers descended down the steps of the Sheriff’s Office, they assisted Watson in leaving the building for the last time.
When the hearse pulled away, officers and those in the attendance extinguished their candles and consoled one another before the crowd dispersed.
Watson’s funeral service was held on Friday, Aug. 9 after which he was laid to rest at Jefferson Memorial Gardens Cemetery in St. Rose.
In addition to leaving behind his wife, Watson is also survived by stepdaughter Abrial Suarez; parents, Becky Cumming Watson and Harry W. Watson as well as sisters, Christie W. Rivet and Rachel W. Cook.
A memorial fund has been set up in Watson’s name and donations are being received at all Capital One locations.