HENRY COUNTY, Ga. — A Henry County Sheriff's Office deputy died on Tuesday, officials said. Sean Free was 41 years old.
According to friends and former coworkers, Free suffered a heat stroke during training. However, the Henry County Sheriff's Office disputes this.
A spokesperson sent 11Alive this statement: "Sgt. Free was not on the range. He was inside of a classroom on the property of the range when he became nauseous. He was transported to the hospital. While being transported, he was conscious, alert and responding."
Kelly Couch, a close friend and former coworker whose kids called Deputy Sean Free, "Uncle Sean," said the deputy's father also had a heart attack after hearing of his son's passing.
Robert Howell, another former Henry County sheriff's deputy and colleague of Free's for 13 years, told 11Alive's Dawn White that his fellow deputies were his "best friends."
"My heart just goes out to them," he said. "I know they're shattered and broken and lost right now... and I'm just praying for them, praying for Sean's family, praying for Sean's dad."
Howell described Free as someone who was "extremely honest, very dedicated."
"To put it simply, he was an honest friend and a faithful servant. He showed up to work every single day," Howell said. "The guy loved wearing the badge. And he put all of his energy in doing the job and doing the job well."
Howell added: "He loves the Lord. He would do anything for anyone. He'd take the shirt off his back and give it to you, and that's no lie. I've seen him do it, that's the guy he is. And anyone in the county, any of the city agencies, the county police department, the sheriff's office, they'll tell you the same thing: Sean Free would be there to help you no matter what."
Henry County was among the areas of metro Atlanta under a heat advisory on Tuesday, meaning the heat index - the temperature it feels like outside - was between 105 and 110 degrees.
The medical examiner will determine Sgt. Free's exact cause of death.