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County law enforcement officer dies unexpectedly

Veteran law enforcement officer Steve M. Cassada passed away unexpectedly Saturday evening while dining with family at a restaurant in Altavista.

The lifelong Sinai community resident was 59.

Cassada was dining out with his wife, Vicky, and other family members when he lost consciousness while eating, according to Halifax County Sheriff Fred Clark.

A nurse, who also was eating at the restaurant, attempted to revive Cassada without success. Cassada died at the restaurant shortly after 9 p.m., and the exact cause of death remains undetermined, said Clark.

Earlier in the week, Cassada told The Gazette-Virginian editor he had felt “under the weather” and reported having flu-like symptoms. On Friday, he said he still “was not up to par but getting there.”

Cassada, who served as a lieutenant, was a vital component of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office where he had served in various positions during his 34 years on the job, his boss said.

Cassada served under six sheriffs including Sheriffs Jim Miller, Woody Bane, Eugene Shortt, Jeff Oakes, Stanley Noblin and Fred Clark.

Cassada had served in positions of lieutenant, major and captain and currently was the evidence custodian for the sheriff’s office. In addition, he was the public relations officer and served as a liaison for the department with the various news organizations.

Cassada was known for inserting his personal touches to press releases and kept the media updated on many of his vacation and travel plans.

“Nothing to report folks,” he wrote in a September release. “This will be my last day for awhile. Headed down to Ocracoke Island for some adult beverages, fishing and some adult beverages. Be back the first of October. Y’all behave yourselves until I get back.”

Another one in the summer read, “Well folks, my old Harley and I are heading out of the country for a while. I’ll be back at work on July 25, but I’ll come back on evening shift for the rest of the month…Y’all try to behave until I get back.”

“He simply had a way with people,” the sheriff said. “He was our administrative backbone.”

In addition, Cassada served as a firearms instructor and handled equipment purchases for the deputies and kept an eye on the inventory of uniforms and other items, Clark said.

“His demeanor was truly that of an officer and a gentleman. The guys all went to him with their problems. They called him ‘Rev.’,” the sheriff said remembering his friend and colleague. “He always reassured them everything would be OK.”

As news of the lieutenant’s death circulated throughout the community Sunday, Cassada was remembered for his decades of faithful service to county citizens.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” said Clark. “He was a friend to everyone he met, and I cannot express how much we will miss him. He was an icon, role model, mentor and brother to everyone who worked with him at the sheriff’s office. He was a great man and again, we will sorely miss him. 

“We are grateful to all the citizens and fellow law enforcement officers who have expressed their sympathy and admiration for Lieutenant Cassada. May God bless his family,” Clark added.

Former Sheriff Jeff Oakes described Cassada as the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office’s “ambassador of goodwill.”

“He greeted everyone with a warm handshake and a smile or a heart-felt hug. Steve did not know a stranger and lived his life as a servant to his fellow man and Halifax County. He will truly be missed by all who knew, loved and admired him,” Oakes added.

When he wasn’t working, Cassada enjoyed riding his Harley and was a member of the Legion Riders Motorcycle Club.

He also was a member of American Legion Post 8 and Dan River Baptist Church.

He is survived by his wife, Vicky Reeves Cassada, and his three children – two daughters and a son. 

Cassada also was a grandfather.

A memorial service for Cassada will be held at a later date, according to a spokesperson at Powell Funeral Home.