Austin officer fatally shot hailed as a ‘hero’
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — An Austin police officer fatally shot in the line of duty was hailed Wednesday as a “hero” during a memorial service attended by thousands of law enforcement officers from across Texas.
The public service for 40-year-old Senior Officer Jaime Padron drew nearly 5,000 people, most of them uniformed officers, before a funeral procession escorted his body to San Angelo for burial, about 200 miles northwest of Austin.
“We’ve been shedding a lot of tears this week. ... We’re all grieving,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said.
Acevedo praised Padron for his commitment to his family, his police work and colleagues.
“Above all else, he was a hero,” Acevedo said.
Padron’s casket was draped in an American flag and flanked by photographs of the officer when he was a Marine and with his family. A large photo positioned above his casket showed him being kissed on both cheeks by his daughters, ages 10 and 6. Hundreds of officers lined up to file past the casket to pay their respects.
Police departments from Lubbock, Dallas, Fort Worth and Waco were among those to send representatives. Two members of the Chicago police department also attended, Acevedo said.
After about 90 minutes inside Shoreline Church, the memorial was moved outdoors. Under sunny skies with a light breeze, Padron was honored with a drum and pipe corps playing “Amazing Grace,” a three-rifle salute and a flyover by three helicopters from local and state police and rescue agencies.
Acevedo got down on one knee to talk quietly with Padron’s daughters when he presented each of them with an American flag. Tears streamed down the cheeks of some officers when a lone trumpeter played “Taps” and many openly wept when Acevedo formally retired Padron’s badge No. 6674.
“Godspeed, Officer Padron,” Acevedo said.
Padron was shot April 6 in a Walmart after responding to a call around 2:30 a.m. about a man causing a disturbance. Twenty-four-year-old Brandon Montgomery Daniel has been charged with capital murder in Padron’s killing and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Authorities say Daniel was potentially intoxicated and tried to run. Padron chased him before the two fell to the ground, then the suspect produced a semi-automatic pistol and shot the officer. Padron was hit twice — once in his protective vest and a second time in the neck — and died at the scene.
He was the first officer shot and killed in the line of duty in Austin since 1978.
“Service, honor, valor, the very things we want most in any police officer were the very things Jaime held dear throughout his entire life,” Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said.
Two Walmart employees, Lincoln LeMere and Archie Jordy, who helped subdue the alleged gunman, attended the memorial service and were applauded when Acevedo brought them onto the stage to be recognized. Acevedo said Walmart donated $50,000 to set up a trust for Padron’s children.
Padron served in Operation Desert Storm. He joined the San Angelo Police Department in 1995, serving as a patrol officer and a gang and narcotics investigator before moving to Austin. He worked for the Austin airport police and joined the city’s police force more than three years ago.
“Jaime was the type of man who made you want to be a better person,” said Officer Rahim Kidd, Padron’s partner on the force and one of his best friends. “He was also very trusting, very caring, very giving. ... Add all those up and you get the man I’m proud to say was my friend, my partner and my brother. Jaime will always be with me.”
Daniel’s mother, Mary O’Dell, has said her son is a talented software engineer who has been struggling with depression for months after a bitter breakup with his longtime girlfriend. O’Dell said her son had no memory of the shooting, and that he had taken the prescription anti-anxiety drug Xanax just hours earlier.
She expressed sympathy for Padron’s family, saying she has “nothing but a deep felt pain” over his death.