Hundreds gather for renaming of bridge to honor fallen rookie N.C. officer
The “Officer Ryan A. Hayworth Bridge” remembers the young officer on the job for only three months when a driver struck his cruiser ejecting him
By Richard Stradling
The News & Observer
KNIGHTDALE, N.C. — Hundreds of people gathered in a town park for a memorial service and vigil a few days after police officer Ryan Hayworth was hit and killed on Interstate 540 in the fall of 2021.
Now Knightdale has found a more permanent way to honor and remember Hayworth, with help from the state Department of Transportation.
The Knightdale Boulevard bridge over I-540 will be named in Hayworth’s honor. The state Board of Transportation approved the naming of the Officer Ryan A. Hayworth Bridge on Thursday.
“This step today is a great honor that will continue to ensure that Ryan’s memory lives on,” Ryan’s father, former Zebulon police Chief Tim Hayworth, told board members. “And we know that today Ryan is looking down on this meeting with that grin — anybody that knew Ryan knew that he always had this grin on his face, and we know that he is grinning right now.”
Ryan Hayworth had been with the Knightdale Police Department for only three months when he and another officer responded to a single-car crash on I-540 in the wee hours of Oct. 17, 2001. The driver of a Mercedes-Benz plowed into the back of one of the stopped police cars, ejecting Hayworth and the other officer, Cody Hagler.
Hayworth died at WakeMed a short time later. He was 23.
The driver of the Mercedes, Dedric Privette, was indicted by a grand jury on charges of second-degree murder, driving while impaired, careless and reckless driving, felony serious injury and failing to move over for an emergency vehicle.
Hayworth, a graduate of East Wake Academy, joined the Army National Guard in 2016 and served in Kuwait. Back home, he led youth groups at Faith Baptist Church in Knightdale, taught youth soccer and worked in homeless shelters and soup kitchens. His father said he had a “servant’s heart.”
Lawrence Capps, Knightdale’s police chief, told the transportation board that someone isn’t truly gone until they are forgotten.
“And this act, though it may seem small to some, is a huge step to making sure that we memorialize a young man who committed his life to service,” Capps said. “So thank you for your part in helping us to ensure that his memory lives on, to make sure that he is not forgotten and all those who pass by the bridge will be reminded of his selfless service, but more than that, challenged to live like Ryan.”