Street renamed for fallen deputy
BY PATRICK MASON
Monday, June 25, 2018
PINETOPS — During a church service at Thornes Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Rocky Mount one Sunday morning, Edgecombe County Sheriff Clee Atkinson was approached by a young man with ambitions to become a deputy.
In the weeks and months that followed that initial conversation, Atkinson went through an awakening of sorts as the sheriff grew to admire and appreciate the passion this man carried with him.
That man was David Lee’Sean Manning, who Atkinson would later describe as an unforgettable personality.
“The spirit that he had, and that aura that he had, man, it would shake the room,” Atkinson said.
Manning followed through with his statement and was hired as a deputy on Nov. 8, 2017. Just five months later, Manning died at 24 when his patrol car was involved in in a two-car crash while pursuing a vehicle on March 11. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Atkinson said he has thought a lot about that day, and on Sunday he and the rest of the Edgecombe County community was able to honor Manning in a lasting way.
Just outside of the Pinetops Town Hall building, the city dedicated a street in honor of Manning in a well-attended ceremony. What was formerly 1st Street is now known as Deputy David “Sean” Manning Street.
A massive U.S. flag — hung atop an extended fire truck ladder across the street from the Town Hall — was the backdrop for the ceremony. Six rows of white folding chairs faced a lectern. News cameras rolled, and uniformed officers huddled near the back of the chairs.
Almost a dozen people stood up to speak, including Mayor Steve Burress, Apostle Emma Dickens, who said a prayer, and Apostle Ernest Dickens read a pair of scriptures. A balloon release preceded some words from family members.
Later, 16 uniformed officers held up a green street sign with Manning’s name in a display of solidarity.
It was clear that Manning was well-respected, highlighted by the more than 100 people who showed up in formal attire despite the stifling heat. His passion for his job rubbed off on others, including Atkinson who still thinks back to that first meeting with Manning at church.
At the time, Atkinson didn’t believe Manning was serious about becoming a deputy. The sheriff had heard statements like these before, and brushed off the encounter.
Atkinson, however, soon discovered that Manning was serious about his intentions that day because Manning would follow up by delivering updates on his schooling. He was progressing through Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) for a second time, and this one was going to stick.
“He found me at my church and he said ‘I want to work for you, but there’s some things I have to get straight,’” Atkinson recalled. “I didn’t believe him and I kind of blew him off. I later asked for forgiveness for that because I didn’t understand this young man’s drive. I couldn’t see it at the time.
“He came back at the same church the next Sunday and found me a second time and he said he had the strength. He went through BLET, would update me every week, halfway through, and even when it got closer to graduation he kept contacting me and said ‘I’m coming.’ He made a believer out of me.”
Mannings’ family, as well as his co-workers, were inspired by the amount of people that showed up for Sunday’s ceremony. Atkinson said that in Manning’s death, the Edgecombe County community stepped up to support the fellow officers and Manning’s family.
“At the time of the tragic collision, the community, they got me through it,” Atkinson said. “The love, the prayers, the dropping off of food on a daily basis, the emails to deputies and people that were praying for us — right there, I knew it was a special community.
“That thought process or notion of people not caring for law enforcement was never there. These officers, they saw a whole different side of love from a community. And I knew that was a ground base for me to continue to grind as hard as I can to build community relations. This today, this gives me hope to continue to drive to fight for the people who, on a hot and humid day, dropped in to pay tribute to a young hero.”