Florida police chief piloting plane killed in crash

A Florida police chief died Sunday morning when the plane he was piloting crashed into an open field, authorities said.

Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn confirmed the death of Ocala Police Chief Greg Graham, news outlets reported.

Marion County Fire Rescue said the plane crashed around 11:30 a.m. in an open field, not far from the Marion County Airport. Graham was the only person on board. A Marion County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said no one else was injured.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in a tweet that it was investigating the crash.

Guinn said Graham was “fascinated” with flying and had recently received his pilot’s license.

“It’s hard to believe,” Guinn said.

Graham became chief in January 2012. He was placed on paid administrative leave after being accused of racial discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile treatment and retaliation against three officers in 2016, but was reinstated and cleared the following year.

Recently, Graham was on a vocal presence in Ocala during the Black Lives Matter protests after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

He condemned Floyd's killing and told the crowd they could contact him personally “if they believe one of his officers has done anything wrong,” The Ocala Star-Banner reported.

Guinn said Ocala Deputy Chief Mike Balken will be named interim police chief.

“(Graham's) leadership was responsible for changing the direction of the department,” Guinn said. “I couldn’t have asked for anybody better.”