Law enforcement across the U.S. is extremely tight-knit.
Harker Heights Police Chief Mike Gentry spoke those words three days after Killeen police officer Robert “Bobby” Hornsby, 32, was fatally shot during a gunbattle at Grandon Manor Apartments on July 14. The suspect, Army Pfc. Dustin Cole, was killed and Killeen police officer Juan Obregon Jr. was hospitalized.
Examples of that tight-knit bond are many: Hundreds of police officers from across Texas attended Hornsby’s funeral Thursday. And after Hornsby’s autopsy was completed last Sunday in Dallas, one car from every police force between there and here drove in a procession from Dallas to a Killeen funeral home, according to Justice of the Peace Garland Potvin.
The last area police death was Dec. 20, 2010, when Harker Heights Officer Andrew Jordan Rameas died while escorting a funeral procession. His motorcycle hit an SUV that turned in front of it on West Stan Schlueter Loop in Killeen. He died at a local hospital.
“When you lose a police officer, it’s like losing a member of your own family,” said HHPD spokesman Sgt. Roosevelt Wilson Jr. “You recover with time, a lot of patience and a lot of faith. ... Our entire department as well as the city of Harker Heights gives our heartfelt condolences to (Hornsby’s) family.”
Since 2010, HHPD has strengthened, Wilson said. Many people — including officers who didn’t work with one another — came together.
“Officer Rameas is still missed by all those associated with the Harker Heights Police Department. Our continued best wishes to his fine family,” stated a May 16 web post on Rameas’ Officer Down Memorial Page, written by Gentry.
In the aftermath of last Sunday’s tragedy, Wilson said HHPD would help KPD with anything it needs, as the two have helped each other through past emergencies.
U.S. International Police Association Chaplain Bonnie Watt, 59, worked three years in the Dallas County Constable’s Office, and 24 years as a deputy sheriff in Dallas County, where she served on the honor guard and went through many funerals, four of which paid tribute to her fellow officers.
After Dallas County Deputy Sheriff Suzanne Lee Kays died from gunfire in 1989, Watt said officers found peace by supporting her family, going to her funeral and honoring her any way they could.
“It doesn’t give them all that they need, but it does help,” Watt said. “Everybody deals with grief and death in their own way. There’s really no hard, fast solution or steps to take. Everyone has to come to grips that, physically, they’re no longer with us.”
Watt said she believes one positive aspect that people can draw from tragedy is the self-revealing, emergent truth that everyone is mortal and are part of life’s renewal process.
Officers often oblige themselves to take care of fallen colleagues’ families, banding together through common loss.
“I’ve gotten to a place within my own self that I really truly miss the people, but I know it happened for a reason,” Watt said. “Someday, I’ll find out why. I just don’t know when.”