Honoring a fallen hero

Eric Talley was among the first people to run into the King Soopers grocery store and was fatally shot.

Left: A picture of Officer Eric Talley released by the city of Boulder. Right: Officer Talley's police vehicle is parked outside a Boulder police station in his memory.

When mass shootings occur, we often fail to take deep breaths and allow facts to gather; instead, people rush to their ideological corners, the issue becomes intractable, and society moves on.

As a fair-minded person, I would take the anti-gun crowd more seriously if they’d be more fact-based or argue in good faith, rather than using the same banal clichés year after year. They frequently forget that exogenous conditions contribute to shootings, not just race or “scary guns.” Then they make the burden fall on law-abiding people who aren’t the problem.

So, let’s ignore the overtly racist tweets from the vice president’s niece, and focus on this hero.

A 51-year-old police officer was one of 10 individuals killed Monday when a crazed gunman opened fire in Boulder, Colo.

Eric Talley was among the first people to run into the King Soopers grocery store and was fatally shot. Other victims ranged in age from 20 to 65. When police arrested Syrian-born Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, they symbolically used Talley’s handcuffs.

Like many law enforcement members, Talley was a protective man at home and work.

“I honestly know my brother, when he heard there was a shooting in a supermarket, I know his first thought was, ‘There are kids in there,’” his sister, Kirstin Brooks, said. “He loved his kids. His family shopped at King Soopers. I know Eric would have wanted to save every single one of those lives. I know why he flew in there first, because he was thinking, there are families in that store.”

More than a decade before the shooting, Talley worked in information technology, until at age 40, he changed paths and enrolled in the police academy.

Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jeremy Herko was Talley’s best friend and lived down the street. He said Talley switched from a six-figure job to law enforcement because of a friend’s tragic DUI death.

“That kind of propelled him into law enforcement,” Herko said. “He is drawn to people, and people are drawn to him. It’s easy to be drawn to a guy like that. I was fortunate that he liked me as well. He absolutely loved his job and wanted to serve the community.”

Talley is one of seven Boulder police officers who’ve now fallen in the line of duty.

Brooks, who called her brother a “very peaceful and good man who hated violence,” said he supported organizations like the ASPCA. In 2013, he was part of a group of officers that rescued 11 ducklings and their mother trapped in a drainage ditch.

“I can tell that you he’s a very kind man and he didn’t have to go into policing,” Police Chief Maris Herold said. “He loved this community and he’s everything that policing deserves and needs. He cared about this community, he cared the Boulder Police Department and he cared about his family and he was willing to die to protect others.”

A police car procession escorted the ambulance carrying Talley’s body Monday night, as officers and first responders lined the road, saluting and holding flags.

These acts of respect continued Wednesday for the father of seven. Hundreds gathered in a procession to pay respects, many with hands over their hearts.

“He loved his kids and his family more than anything,” Talley’s father, Homer, explained. “He didn’t want to put his family through something like this and he believed in Jesus Christ.”

A mass took place Monday in Denver, and a funeral will be held Tuesday in Lafayette, Colo., just east of Boulder.

“Everybody in that grocery store has a sweet family member, sweet people that miss them and that are aching,” Brooks said. “That’s what Eric was trying to prevent — that grief. He would be heartbroken for those families. We are too.”