When Jeanette Apodaca heard about the Killeen police officers who were shot Friday while serving a narcotics warrant, she didn’t know who they were.
But when Killeen Police Department officials announced Detective Charles “Chuck” Dinwiddie died two days later, Apodaca turned to her husband and said, “That’s the detective who found our (stolen wedding) rings.”
Tomas Apodaca didn’t believe her until Sunday evening when their granddaughter texted them a photo of the fallen officer. When the Apodacas saw Dinwiddie’s face, they were shocked.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Jeanette Apodaca, 63, of Killeen. “To know him personally, it was devastating, devastating news. ... He was a caring individual. One who not only cared about his family, but also cared about the community. And he was taken away (far too) soon. My only (thought) is that God needed him more now than we all did.”
After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, Tomas Apodaca, 67, feared he would forget the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary. So he bought his wife a gold, 3-carat diamond wedding ring for their 40th anniversary in 2008.
In November 2008, their wedding rings were stolen by a serviceman repairing a shower. The police officer who initially visited the Apodacas said, “I hate to disappoint you, but you’ll never get your rings back.”
Although that officer said it would be about a week before anyone contacted them, Jeanette Apodaca didn’t wait. The next day she called the police and left a message.
Dinwiddie returned her call and invited the Apodacas to the station. During what became a three-hour meeting, they told him about the significance of their rings.
“He would have done his job anyway, but to know the facts behind it, I think that meant even more to him and why he pushed to get our rings,” Jeanette Apodaca said. “The first officer said, point blank, ‘You’re never going to see your rings again.’ (Detective) Dinwiddie never said that. That’s what made me feel confident that I was going to see my rings again.”
After the ring was stolen, the Apodacas purchased a replica to show Dinwiddie, who called it her “bling.”
“(The replacement) didn’t mean the same to me,” Jeanette Apodaca said.
Luckily, it didn’t matter.
A few days later, Dinwiddie called about 8:30 p.m. to ask if he could stop by. When Apodaca asked why, he said, “There’s no way I can go home with all this bling, bling in my pocket knowing how you guys feel.”
Dinwiddie drove from Copperas Cove, where the rings were found, to the couple’s home in Killeen.
“He could have easily gone home and said, ‘You know what, I’m going to go home to my family,’” Apodaca said.
“He knew how much it meant to me and my husband and he took it upon himself to work that late at night to get our jewelry and to make sure we had it that night. That’s the person he was.”
In December 2008, the officer saw a glittery silver Christmas ornament with the word “bling” on it. Dinwiddie and his son brought the gift to the couple’s home.
“Every year, it goes to the top of my tree and reminds me of (Detective) Dinwiddie,” she said.
Apodaca said there aren’t enough words to express the joy Dinwiddie brought the couple after finding their rings.
“He is our angel,” she said.
And with his death, she knows there’s one more angel looking over her and her husband.
Four female angels lie underneath a tree in the couple’s front yard, each with a special meaning — one for her mother-in-law, one for an aunt and two for best friends.
“Last night, I went and I bought my first boy angel who will represent (Detective) Dinwiddie. These are the angels that watch over us, and now he will be permanently underneath my tree, watching over us again,” she said. “It’s still hard to believe that he’s gone. ... Killeen is at a great loss without this man. He was an amazing individual. Nobody can walk in his shoes and nobody can take his place.”
Visitation, services for fallen officer
- Funeral services for Detective Charles “Chuck” Dinwiddie will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, 3601 S. W.S. Young Drive. Burial will follow at Killeen City Cemetery.
- The Dinwiddie family will receive visitors from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at First Baptist Church, 3310 S. W.S. Young Drive in Killeen.
- Dinwiddie, an 18-year veteran of the department, was shot early Friday as he and other members of the department’s Tactical Response Unit attempted to serve a narcotics search warrant. He died Sunday at Scott & White Hospital in Temple.