Boynton Beach FL Dec 14 2016 A 14-year-veteran officer of the Boynton Beach Police Department, known for his infectious smile and kind hearted nature, died suddenly while out for a run, police announced Tuesday.
In a Facebook posting, Police Chief Jeffrey Katz said officer Joe Crowder died during his run Monday night. Police spokeswoman Stephanie Slater said Crowder suffered a medical episode but more details about the incident were not immediately available.
He was 44 and the father of two young boys, officials said.
Katz said members of his department spent the night and morning at JFK Medical Center in disbelief.
"We will miss his quite strength, his warm smile, and his tireless pursuit of that which is just," Katz said in the posting.
He urged people to spend the day sharing love and appreciation as if it were their last.
"Joe's loss is a somber reminder that every moment is a gift. Please keep Joe's family in your prayers," Katz said.
Crowder had also served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army.
Before joining the Boynton Beach Police Department in June, 2002, Crowder served as a community service officer at the Chickasha Police Department in Oklahoma, according to Chickasha Police Cheif Stuart Steele in a Facebook post.
Steele met Crowder while serving as a traffic sergeant and Crowder's supervisor.
"Joe was a real professional, smart person, who loved his job and was driven to bring peace to a chaotic world," Steele said. "Joe was one of the best officers I have ever been privileged to work with."
Crowder became a member of the Boynton Beach Police Department's K9 Unit in 2012, officials said.
During their approximately three years working together, Crowder and his K-9, Daxxx, a German shepherd caught nearly two dozen criminals, the driver of a 50 mile chase and a murderer, police said. Daxxx was forced to retire in December 2015 due to bulging discs in his neck. Crowder kept Daxxx after the dog's retirement.
Then in July, Crowder's current K-9 arrived, Officer Iro. He described the 4-year-old Czech shepherd as sociable with a strong nose for sniffing out currency.
Between spending time with church groups, and volunteering around the city, Crowder was recognized in April 2013 when he and two other officers were named officers of the month. The officers tracked down a man who was hiding from police after his alleged involvement in a fatal home invasion case.
In 2015, the Kiwanis Club of Boynton Beach praised Crowder and another officer for catching a group of suspects who led police on a chase that started in Miami Gardens.
The news of Crowder's death Tuesday morning came as a shock to his many friends, including Lakendra Roberts, 35, of Boynton Beach.
"It's hard," she said. "I can't even focus right now."
She described Crowder, who she's known for three years, as kind hearted and always wanting to help. The two last talked recently at a holiday tree lighting ceremony, about his boys, retirement and his time in the army.
"He was a quiet person who would help you out in your time of need.," Roberts said. "He was one of the best police officers Boynton Beach has ever had."