Remembering Ray Knight

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Family mourns loss of retired police officer

By Jenny Hartley

Fran Knight remembers hearing chilling words from her husband Ray’s doctor after he was shot in the face last June.

“He said, ‘Mr. Knight, you’re going to have some major medical problems from this,’” Fran Knight said. “He went downhill really fast.”

Retired police officer Ray Knight was shot in his right eye on June 27 after attempting to help two people whose car had overturned in a ditch on Old Lynwood Circle. He called 911 and while on the phone with a dispatcher, he was shot by Charles Raffaldt, according to the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office. Raffaldt was fleeing the car that wrecked, deputies say.

Ray and Fran Knight had gone to dinner that evening, then decided to visit their grandchildren at their house on Old Lynwood.

Ray Knight’s granddaughter, Kylee, was with her grandpa as he walked to the overturned car. When she saw the gun, she ran to her house and didn’t see her grandpa get shot.

The bullet went into Ray Knight’s right eye. It shattered his nasal cavity before lodging below his left eye.

“A doctor said, ‘He should be dead,’” Fran Knight said. “I know only by the grace of God that he was still living.”

Raffaldt and Stephanie Myers were leaving the scene of another crime when they crashed their car in the Lynwood Circle area, officers say. Raffaldt and Myers had just robbed and shot a man in the buttocks in the same area and were trying to escape when the crash happened, officers say. Officers said Raffaldt shot at Knight because he didn’t want anyone to discover what they had just done.

Raffaldt and Myers face a string of charges in the robbery and shootings, including assault and battery with intent to kill.

“I think we were all just in shock at first,” Fran Knight said, remembering the night her husband of almost 40 years was shot. “Then I was really angry when I found out why it happened.”

Ray Knight died Jan. 17 at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.

Sixth Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield said he will review autopsy results to see whether Knight died due to injuries from his gunshot wound. It’s possible Raffaldt and Myers could be charged again if a link is found between Knight’s gunshot injuries and his death.

“We haven’t heard anything,” Fran Knight said Friday. “It will take six to eight weeks to get the autopsy results back.”

Loved his job

Ray Knight retired from the Lancaster Police Department in 2003 after more than 18 years. Before he became a police officer, he worked at Springs Industries’ Grace Bleachery and Riverlawn Plant, where he was a supervisor.

Fran Knight said her husband loved being a police officer. He liked meeting people on the job, and enjoyed mentoring young people. She said she didn’t mind when her husband wanted to become a police officer.

“Back then, people weren’t so mean,” she said.

In 1987, Fran Knight became a reserve officer for the police department.

“I said, ‘I can ride with you, that can be our quality time together,’” Fran Knight said, with a smile. “We  enjoyed doing that together. Except for the times he’d scare me to death, like when they got in a chase or something.”

She later became a dispatcher for the police department. She said she joked with Ray that she got to tell him what to do over police radio, directing him to calls and emergencies.

“I said, ‘That’s the one time I can tell you what to do and you got to do it,” she said, with a smile.

In 2002, Ray Knight, a patrol sergeant, responded to a call about a person with mental health issues. The man came at him with two butcher knives. Ray Knight stepped into a ditch and hurt his back that night.

After that call, Ray Knight asked his supervisor if he could go home because he didn’t feel well.

Another officer, the late Jamie Wilson, believed Ray was having a heart attack, and took him to the hospital.

Doctors confirmed he had a heart attack and he was out of work for about three months, but returned to the force for another year.

Some of the officers poked a little fun at Ray’s gruff manner, but it was out of endearment.

There was also a running joke about how Ray showed he meant business as he backed up officers on calls.

“You knew someone was going to jail if Ray got out of his car and snatched his pants up in the back,” Fran Knight said, with a laugh.

She said her husband’s leg would occasionally give out because of his back injury, and in 2003, doctors felt it would be a good idea if he retired.

But he still loved law enforcement, even after retirement, even after he was shot, often telling his wife that he wished he could go back to work. At the same time, she said her husband enjoyed his retirement.

He did woodworking, building chairs, swings and birdhouses. He made miniature Adirondack chairs for his grandchildren.

“He was a good husband,” Fran Knight said. “Like any marriage, you have your moments. But he loved his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

His son, Bryan, 32, misses his dad. He remembers when he was young, his dad would play ball with him, or wrestle to “toughen him up.”

After his retirement, he talked to Bryan about opening up a small shop to repair lawn mowers. Bryan Knight said he talked to his dad a lot.

“I miss him,” he said. “If I didn’t call him, he’d call me, wondering why I didn’t call him.”

After the shooting

The shooting left Ray Knight without his right eye. It also affected the vision in his left eye. He tried to go back to woodworking, but cut his finger badly with a saw.

Fran Knight said her husband was often depressed after the shooting. When he heard the gunshots of hunters in the woods near their home, he’d sometimes suffer panic attacks. He was also angry about what happened.

In December, Ray Knight was hospitalized with shortness of breath.

On Jan. 5, he was admitted to Springs Memorial Hospital, and on Jan. 10, he was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center with bleeding on the brain. Doctors drilled his skull to reduce the pressure and also learned that he had leukemia.

Fran Knight said being a Christian has helped her get through the family’s ordeal. She also has her children, Bryan, and Denise, 38, their spouses, and their children, Nicole, Brittany, Mackenzie, Kylee and Justin, and great-grandchildren, Kayden and Jonathan.

The television and kitchen counter in Fran Knight’s home is overflowing with sympathy cards.

“I’m still getting cards,” she said.

She said she’s thankful for all the prayers and visits from friends and fellow officers.

Ray Knight was buried in uniform, supplied by part-time Lancaster Police Department officer Jimmy Quinn. He received a police officer’s burial, with honor guard and 21-gun salute.

“The police department and fire department did such a good job (conducting the funeral),” Fran Knight said. “Ray would have been so proud.”

In several weeks, Fran Knight will learn exactly why her husband died. Both she and Bryan believe Ray’s injury contributed to his death.

“I don’t hate anybody, I can’t hate anybody,” Fran Knight said. “But I can be angry. I’m angry that this had to happen to him.”

Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1151