Mike Fraley to retire from CCSD on Thursday

John Thompson • Updated Dec 10, 2019 at 9:55 PM

ELIZABETHTON — It has been a long and eventful career, and at times it has ben an extremely painful one for Mike Fraley, who will be in uniform as a lieutenant in the Carter County Sheriff’s Department for the last time on Thursday. Fraley won’t actually retire until Dec. 30. But he will be taking his final compensatory time for the rest of the month.

Fraley has only worked for one agency during his long and distinguished career, but he is the member of a family that has served in several of the area’s law enforcement offices. His father, Bill Fraley, retired as a captain in the Elizabethton Police Department and his brother, Brian Fraley, has now served more than a decade as a special agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation after serving more than a decade with the Elizabethton Police Department.

Fraley said his father did not become a police officer until later in life. He said his father had been out of work for about eight months when he was in second grade. “He told me he was going to be a police officer,” Fraley said.

But even though his father was an officer, the profession did not interest Fraley at this point in his life. As a young man, he got a job as a cook in a steakhouse. The job took him to Mooresville, N.C., in the mid-1980s. Several lawmen were regulars of the restaurant. Fraley found their comradeship and their outlook on life to be appealing and it was those men who inspired him to become a law officer.

Fraley returned to the Tri-Cities to begin his search for a law enforcement job, but his skill as a cook got him a job in a meat-cutting plant in Boones Creek in the meantime.

But it did not take Fraley long to find a job with a local agency. He was hired as a corrections officer with the Carter County Jail. It was the only place he ever applied for a law enforcement job. Bill Crumley was the sheriff at the time, the first of five sheriffs he would serve under. He was hired on May 17, 1989. A few months later, he was sent to the law enforcement academy. By 1990, Fraley was working in the patrol division. In 1993, he was promoted to sergeant. That year was also one of the years when he had to overcome severe weather problems.

It was a blizzard that caused most of the county’s roads to freeze and then the temperatures plunged. The county was in a deep freeze for several days.

“Back then, the department had only one four-wheel drive vehicle,” he said. To make up for the department’s lack of transportation through the icy and mountainous roads, Fraley and other officers used their own vehicles to respond to emergencies, deliver important medicine and answer other critical calls.

It was a challenging time, but the department and the deputies were able to respond to many emergencies in the last major storm before the department began to build up its four-wheel drive fleet.

The next ordeal Fraley would encounter would be one that nearly cost him his life. On June 15, 1994, Fraley was on the west side of the county but responded to a call about trouble at the Hampton Bait Shop. Fraley sped in from Pinecrest, hardly expecting the problem to still be there when he arrived n Hampton. Indeed, the man left the Bait Shop, but went to Brown’s Market.

When Fraley arrived at Brown’s, the man confronted him and shot him in the upper right arm. That made it nearly impossible for Fraley to draw his pistol from his holster. The helpless deputy was then shot in the center of his chest, then twice in the abdomen.

The shooter left the scene and would die in a shootout a short time later. Fraley remained conscious and was transported to Johnson City Medical Center. He did not lose consciousness until medical personnel were putting tubes in him.

“That hurt about as much as the bullets going in,” Fraley said.

Fraley would remain in the hospital for a month. He then continued his recovery at home. He finally returned to duty in November.

Fraley has news for those people who see their heroes shot and then come back strong the next week. A severe bullet wound is a lifelong ordeal. Just this year, Fraley has had procedures and pneumonia related to the 1994 shooting. It is something he has learned to live with.

One other major event in Fraley’s career was the great Doe River Flood and Blizzard of January 1998. Fraley said he does not have sharp memories of the flood, it was one long slog for a week, with no trips home. He had uniforms brought to him and he took showers at the sheriff’s office for a week. Part of the reason was that there were seven bodies that needed to be recovered. When the final body was found, he went home and slept for two solid days.

The rest of Fraley’s career has not been quite so personally challenging, but his experiences have made him a valuable adviser to deputies and police officers who have been injured in shootings He has been a trusted counsellor to several officers who were recovering from gunshot wounds.

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