Kimberly Hornsby ran across the finish line with a proud, yet grief-stricken smile as her husband’s wedding ring and a replica of his police badge, No. 234, dangled around her neck.
In her hands, she carried a black flag to symbolize the fallen officer as she crossed the finish line of the Hero 5k Run.
“It is what it is,” Hornsby said. “We’re Christian people, so we believe that there is life after this. He’s living a good life. We’re here in the fallen world and he’s up there, so I guess there’s comfort in that.”
More than 800 people ran the trail near the Killeen Community Center on Saturday to support the widow, whose husband, officer Robert “Bobby” Hornsby, 32, died July 14 from gunshot wounds during a SWAT standoff in Killeen.
During the run, Kimberly Hornsby was surrounded by members of the Killeen SWAT Team — her husband’s “brotherhood.”
“When you become an officer, you automatically join this bond of brotherhood, this fraternity,” said KPD Detective Ramiro Martinez, 34, who knew Hornsby since he was a freshman at Temple High School. “It’s something that not a whole lot of people experience at their workplace everyday, because these are guys who go to battle for (you) and you would give your life for (them). When you throw in a best friend — a little brother, somebody that meant the world to you — it’s just that much more special.”
Although Martinez was first friends with Hornsby’s brother, Charles, he and Hornsby became inseparable throughout high school and were college roommates.
“It’s just something you migrated to when you’re around Bobby,” Martinez said. “He sucks you in and all you want to do is follow him and be with him and be around him.”
Martinez, who had been an officer at KPD for three years, received a call from Hornsby showing interest in joining the force about five years ago.
“I told him I’d love to have him. It’d be like having a real little brother,” Martinez said. “I was a proud brother to have him there and I mean it. It was beyond the sense of just the police part. ... I knew there was someone there who always had my back, no matter what, he was always going to be there, and he was.”
Hornsby had Martinez’s back until he got a phone call letting him know Hornsby was killed in the line of duty after eight months as a SWAT officer. At that moment, Martinez’s uniform fell; his badge fell.
All that mattered was that his “brother” was gone.
“It was by far the closest and worse loss I’ve ever experienced. ... The Lord has blessed me enough that I haven’t had to have those trials until (July 14),” Martinez said. “At that moment, I didn’t look at it as an officer fell or a brother in blue fell — it was my best friend fell, my little brother fell. Even though there was no bond by blood. ... We had that connection. It was like I just dropped.”
Martinez said he relives Hornsby’s death every minute, but he will continue to serve without his “brother” by his side, knowing that the police force is experiencing something it hasn’t in nearly 100 years.
The KPD “family” and community is going through it together, Martinez said after finishing the tribute race. “Words can’t even describe what I feel today.”
Kimberly Hornsby said the community’s outpouring of support is humbling and opens people’s eyes about the positive things KPD does.
“Police officers get such a negative connotation and that always bothered my husband,” Hornsby said. “He’s like, ‘I wish people knew that we do good things. We don’t just pull you over for a speeding ticket. ... We protect you.’
“I think that something like this helps ... his feelings be realized that there is a lot of good. We just appreciate everything. It’s like endless volunteer hours happening right now.”
Greg Brown, owner of Crossfit Killeen, organized the event shortly after hearing of Hornsby’s death.
“When we found out on Sunday ... we wanted to do something, but we weren’t really sure,” Brown said. “We figured a 5k would allow a lot of participation, all different shapes, sizes.”
Despite collecting about $13,000 for the family before the run, Brown said not to forget the officer, his widow and their two children, Layden, 4, and Braxx, 1, after the grief starts to fade.
“Don’t just let it go by the wayside,” Brown said. “They’re still there. They’re still going to need help. Her husband’s still not here. Just continue to be there for her for whatever she needs, because it may get a little bit tougher for her.”