When the 38-year-old patrol officer died in the line of duty this October, his death sent shock waves through the community, the sadness borne by all through the intricate web of personal and family connections that holds Cherokee together. It’s a loss that will never go away, but family members gave an emotional “thank you” to Tribal Council when its members voted unanimously this month to rename the EBCI Justice Center for Lossiah.
The $26 million building, completed in December 2014, will now be known as the Anthony Edward Lossiah Justice Center.
“He had a heart of gold,” said Councilmember Anita Lossiah, of Yellowhill. “He paid the ultimate price for the public service he provided to the community for years and years. This is a very appropriate memorial for him and his life.”
Tony Lossiah had been serving with the Cherokee Indian Police Department for 17 years on the day he joined his colleagues on a search for a larceny and armed robbery suspect on Aug. 11 last year. While on the search, he fell down a riverbank and tore a muscle in his hip. The tear bled internally into the hip joint, eventually becoming an abscess that caused his circulatory system to go septic.
“He had blood clots, he had seizures in his brain,” said Ben Reed, community outreach officer for the police department who worked with Lossiah throughout his years of service. “It just overtook him.”
Lossiah died at Mission Hospital in Asheville on Oct. 6, 2015.
“I think every one of us probably thought he was going to be OK. I know I did,” said Principal Chief Patrick Lambert.
Lossiah won’t be quickly forgotten. Aside from the well-attended funeral, lowered flags and upcoming recognition at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. and in the American Police Hall of Fame and Museum in Florida, his legacy will be memorialized in the justice center’s new name.
“This is different here because this honor is being presented by his peers,” said Council Chair Bill Taylor, of Wolfetown.
“The kind gestures, that means something to us,” said Francine Watty, Lossiah’s aunt by marriage, who spoke for the family. “It helps this family heal.”
Lossiah left behind a wife and five children when he passed away. Seeing the $26 million building named for their father will give the family reassurance that he did not die in vain, Watty said.
“All those little ones know their daddy wore a badge and a gun,” Reed agreed. “It’s important they know his job was important and he’s being honored for his service.”