Bird was granted the leave one week ago, Ruth confirmed in an interview with the Cleveland Daily Banner. However, he declined to discuss Bird’s medical condition in detail, nor would he identify on the record the nature of Bird’s illness due to privacy concerns for the chief deputy and his family.
Bird was selected as Ruth’s chief deputy after the 2010 elections.
Bird began his law enforcement career as a deputy sheriff in Orange County, Fla. He was 21 years old at the time and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a commander in the department, then chief of detectives.
“Chief Bird has been invaluable to me personally and to our agency in organizing a well-trained, well-led, well-developed Sheriff’s Office to fight and prevent crime,” Ruth said. “I could not have made a better choice for chief deputy.”
Ruth described Bird’s years as a professional lawman as being an “exemplary career in law enforcement.”
He was recognized by three Florida governors for his work in fighting organized crime and political corruption, Ruth said. He was involved in various high-profile cases, including one that involved the mayor of Dade County, Fla., who was on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list for murder and drug charges.
Ruth said Bird was also instrumental in investigations that eliminated drug cartels in Florida and Georgia.
According to the information provided, Bird commanded multi-agency task forces for both drug trafficking and organized criminal conduct, as well as serving two times as coordinator for a statewide grand jury investigating drug trafficking and organized crime.
Bird has had connections with Bradley County for several years, earning his master’s degree at Lee University and working as a certified deputy sheriff here. Locally, he led the investigation of the double-murder case of Larry Ogle in the 1990s, working under then Sheriff Dan Gilley as an undercover detective.
Bird also played roles as a federal task force officer and was credited in “solving other significant, major cases in Bradley County during the 1990s.”
“Wayne is a deeply spiritual man who, throughout his long, distinguished career as a professional lawman, has kept his testimony as a faithful husband, father and grandfather,” Ruth said Friday. “For the last 3 1/2 years, while serving as Bradley County’s chief deputy, he has also worked in the food ministry of the Cross Pointe Church in East Cleveland where he cooked and served the community every Sunday.”
Ruth added, “His friends and associates at the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office will greatly miss his huge contribution to keeping the citizens of our community safe.”
Ruth asked for prayers for Bird and his family in this time of his serious illness.