ROBESON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTW) — A Robeson County sheriff’s deputy died Tuesday afternoon from a heart attack while assisting with a funeral escort, Sheriff Burnis Wilkins said in a Facebook post.

Welton Locklear, 63 of Pembroke, died at UNC Southeastern hospital in Lumberton, according to Wilkins.

“It is with great sadness that I report the unexpected loss of one of Robeson County’s finest,” Wilkins said in the post. “We are asking for prayers for the family, friends, and his law enforcement family as this is a difficult time for us all.”

Locklear fell ill in a church parking lot and was immediately given CPR by members of the church, some of whom were first responders and a nurse, Wilkins said.

Locklear began his career with the sheriff’s office as a detention officer in 1994, according to the sheriff. During his nearly 28-year career, he worked in many capacities and was assigned as a Deputy III in the Civil Division.

“He was a very special person and he was a true professional law enforcement officer, public servant and more importantly, a man of God,” Wilkins said. “He was active in his community and was well respected and will be truly missed by all. He lived his life to the fullest and has touched many people. This is a deep loss for many of us at the Sheriff’s Office as he was a mentor to many of the new deputies and great friends of many others”.

Funeral arrangements remain incomplete.