CHIPLEY - Northwest Florida Reception Center is mourning the loss of one of its own this week as family and friends of Sgt. Paul Phipps hope for justice.
Phipps, who was recently promoted to sergeant at the prison, was killed in a hit and run Saturday while he and a group of friends were riding their motorcycles on Interstate 10 through Daphne, Alabama.
According to a report by the Daphne Police Department, a white SUV with Texas license plates occupied by a white female and white male made contact with Phipps' motorcycle when traffic slowed around mile marker 36, causing Phipps to be thrown from his motorcycle and into the path of an approaching 18-wheeler's rear trailer tires.
Police say both the SUV - which is believed to possible be a Chevy Tahoe - and the semi left the scene.
Phipps' half brother, Glenn Guianand, told the Washington County News he cannot comprehend why anyone would just leave his brother to die.
"I just can't understand it," Guianand said. "I can't imagine that neither the SUV or semi driver knew they had hit someone. Paul was the kind of person that was always quick to help others, but those drivers didn't try to help him. There have been countless times when if someone needed a dollar, Paul would help them out, even if it meant giving his last dollar. It was just a senseless loss."
Meanwhile, Guianand, who lives in Michigan, says someone had to have seen something that could be useful to police.
"There were four or five cars behind him when the accident happened," he said. "If anyone knows anything - even if it's just a partial plate or something - anything would help. Somebody had to have seen something."
Here at home, Phipps' fellow officers are also finding the loss difficult to bear, remembering him as a well respected officer at NFRC, where he worked hand-in-hand with his brother, James.
Sergeant Jo Priest says she first met Phipps when he attended her classes as a trainee a few years ago.
"[Phipps] was soft spoken and easy going, and I had the privilege of watching him mature from a young trainee into a seasoned officer, firm but fair," Priest said. "He was a good officer, but more importantly, he was a good man," Priest said.
Former co-worker Cecilia Spears says she will always remember Phipps as a "dreamer" and a talented craftsman.
"What inspired me the most is that the majority of his dreams and crafts revolved around what mattered to him most: friends, family and togetherness," she said. "What stands out to me is that he was dreaming of building a gazebo with a fire pit at the center, and every time he talked about it, the gazebo would become more and more elaborate and grand. He said he wanted it to be a place where everyone was comfortable and having fun. His spirit shone most when he was dreaming what he could do with others, almost as much as his love of riding his motorcycle. He was such a free and open spirit. His enthusiasm was contagious."
Phipps also leaves behind the love of his life, Jerri Sission - his fiancée who says the love and respect the officers at NFRC had for Phipps was very much returned.
"He was my world, and I feared for him every day," she said. "Not just because of the place he worked, but because of how much worry he had on his shoulders for his brothers and sisters at the prison. He worried daily for them all and gave so much time to make sure he could do the best he could for them and to keep them safe."
"He loved his job because he felt he was making a difference. He always had stories of the things he saw and the things he did, but there was also much he didn't tell us to protect us. He took his job to heart, and it was serious to him. He loved the ones he worked with. Him and his heart of gold."
Anyone with any information about the hit and run is asked to contact the Daphne Police Department at (251) 621-9100.