The police officer who was killed when responding to a mass shooting in Colorado this week is being celebrated as a hero.
Officer Eric Talley, 51, who started on the force in 2010, was the first responder to the scene.
“I can tell you that he’s a very kind man, and he didn’t have to go into policing. He had a profession before this, but he felt a higher calling. And he loved this community. And he’s everything that policing deserves and needs,” Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold told reporters on Tuesday.
“He cared about this community. He cared about Boulder Police Department. He cared about his family. And he was willing to die to protect others. And that gets lost in translation.”
Talley leaves behind a wife and seven children.
The officer was in the IT field before making a career change at age 40, according to his father, Homer Talley.
Homer Talley described his son to Fox 31 as “a man of heart who loved his job.”
Talley and other officers were dispatched to the scene of the shooting, a King Soopers grocery store, at approximately 2:40 p.m. on March 22. They immediately entered the store and exchanged gunfire with the suspect, who was shot and shortly after taken into custody.
The suspect was identified as Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21.
He was treated at a hospital before being transferred to jail as he faces 10 counts of murder.
Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver called Talley “a truly heroic public servant.”
The officer “was gunned down as he valiantly protected those who are in mortal danger,” Weaver told reporters.
“He died charging into the line of fire to save people who were simply trying to live their lives and go food shopping. And the man who gunned them down will be held fully responsible,” added Michael Doherty, the district attorney for Boulder County.
Talley is the 79th law enforcement officer to die in 2021, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. That includes 45 whose deaths involved COVID-19 and 13 who died by gunfire.
Edwin Hurwitz, a defense and immigration attorney, recalled meeting Talley years ago and going on a ride along with him.
Hurwitz said he was skeptical of police officers but saw how patient and understanding Talley was when dealing with calls for help.
“Here was somebody who really believed in the mission that he had to keep people safe, and to keep the community safe, to protect us and to serve us,” the lawyer told CBS. “He was someone who, because he came into it earlier in life had really considered everything about what it means to be a police officer.”
President Joe Biden hailed Talley during remarks from the White House on Tuesday.
“You know when he pinned on that badge yesterday morning, he didn’t know what the day would bring,” Biden said. “He thought he’d be coming home to his family and his seven children. When the moment to act came, officer Talley did not hesitate in his duty, making the ultimate sacrifice in his effort to save lives. That’s the definition of an American hero.”