‘He wasn’t a good man, he was a great man:’ Thousands pay tribute to fallen trooper
GROESBECK, Texas (KWTX) - At 2:11 p.m. Wednesday in a rural cemetery too small to accommodate all who came to mourn, fallen Central Texas DPS Trooper Chad Walker received a final radio call as he was laid to rest.
“Trooper Chad Walker, THP Groesbeck Unit 6 Adam 701 is out of service, off duty” the dispatcher said in response to the silence that followed the call.
“Trooper Walker, thank you for your more than five years of dedication, professionalism and outstanding service.”
Kilted bagpipers, followed by a trooper leading a riderless horse, boots reversed in the stirrups, played “Amazing Grace,” a spring wind blew, and tears fell.
Rain was falling when Walker’s family arrived at La Salle Cemetery seven miles east of Groesbeck where generations of some of Limestone County’s oldest families are buried.
Family members waited in a limousine as procession 800 vehicles long rolled slowly down the tree lined dirt road that leads to the privately owned cemetery, operated by an association and supported by donations.
Some mourners gathered outside the fence line of the cemetery, which is surrounded on three sides by farm fields.
The rain passed and the sun emerged before the graveside service started while vehicles from the long procession continued to arrive.
State troopers and officers from other agencies stood at attention as the seven members of a rifle squad each fired three rounds.
A helicopter made a low pass over the cemetery and a long journey that started on March 26 when Walker was shot as he stopped to help a stranded motorist came to an end.
“God had other plans for Chad”
The sky was gray, and a light rain was falling as mourners gathered Wednesday morning at Groesbeck High School Stadium to bid farewell to the fallen trooper, but as the service started, the clouds parted, and the sun emerged at least for a moment.
Schools, the county courthouse, and many businesses were closed Wednesday in Groesbeck as residents of the town of about 4,200 paused to mourn the death of the veteran law enforcement officer whom, it seems, just about everybody knew.
“He knew where his faith lay and he knew where his home was,” Jimmy Cotton of the Cowboy Heritage Church of Freestone County told mourners.
“All you’ve got to do is say ‘Walker’ and if you’re from Limestone County, you know who the Walkers are,” said Cotton, who officiated at the wedding of Walker and his wife Tobie in 2018.
“God had other plans for Chad,” he said. “Chad’s work on Earth had been done.”
Officers traveled from as far as New York, Nebraska and Florida to attend the service Wednesday.
Firefighters from Teague and Fairfield covered calls during the funeral Wednesday so Groesbeck firefighters could attend the service.
The stands were filled in the 4,000-seat stadium and almost half the field was filled with chairs in which fellow troopers sat.
“I was proud to call Chad Walker my friend and I was proud to call him my brother in Jesus Christ,” Groesbeck Fire Department Chaplain John Carabin said.
“He was a man that cared about people. It didn’t’ matter if you were a friend, family or a stranger.”
“He was a man of faith and he was a Christian. His place in heaven was assured and it was his faith that got him there.”
“Chad wasn’t just a good man, he was a great man,” he said.
Gov. Greg Abbott was among the mourners, but he did not speak.
“Our hearts are with the family and friends of Trooper Walker as they grieve his tragic death in the line of duty,” he said earlier.
“Trooper Walker’s horrific murder is a solemn reminder of the dangers law enforcement officers face every day to keep our communities safe.
As the service ended, Walker’s DPS colleagues and other uniformed officers formed a phalanx through which pallbearers, led by a color guard, carried the trooper’s casket to a waiting hearse for the drive to the small country cemetery seven miles east of Groesbeck, where he will be laid to rest.
State Highway 164 was closed to traffic as a procession led by scores of motorcycle officers, followed by the hearse and a long line of 800 law enforcement vehicles made its way to the cemetery.
“There’s just no words to say”
The hearse carrying Walker’s coffin, draped in a Texas flag, was escorted at 8 a.m. Wednesday from Groesbeck Funeral Home, where fellow officers had stood vigil since last week, to the stadium.
The town is bedecked in blue ribbons and residents were asked to wear blue Wednesday in honor of Walker, who was remembered as a son of Central Texas, the grandson of a former sheriff, and a child of God.
“At a time like this there’s just no words to say. You wish you had them you wish you knew the words to ease the pain and grief that not only the family has but the whole community has,” Limestone County Judge Richard Duncan said.
“There’s folks that have gone out and worked hard [putting up blue ribbons] for their own grief really, a way to share their grief over what’s happened to the Walker family.”
The community has rallied around Walker’s family in the days since the trooper was shot as he pulled over to help a disabled motorist just outside of Mexia.
Walker is survived by his wife, Tobie, a son, twin daughters and a 2-month-old daughter.
A GoFundMe account established to help the family had raised more than $266,000 Wednesday and it’s just one of several efforts to raise money for the family.
On the final night of the Limestone County Fair on March 27, the day after Walker was shot, bidding on the rabbits the Walker family entered in the youth livestock competition shot to $110,000 in less than three hours, and residents continue to add to the total.
“He was a true servant”
Walker’s 18-year law enforcement career started in 2003 when he joined the Groesbeck Police Department.
He later served as an officer in Athens and with the Henderson and Limestone county sheriff’s offices before joining the DPS in 2015.
He was just one of the best Texas peace officers I’ve ever met,” Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse said.
“Chad was doing exactly what he loved to do,” he said.
“He was a true servant.
“We all still love him and will do everything we can to support him and his family.”
“Our DPS family is absolutely heartbroken”
Walker, whose grandfather, Dennis Walker, was Limestone County’s sheriff from the late 1970s until the mid-1990s, was driving southwest at around 7:45 p.m. March 26 on FM 2838 when he spotted a disabled vehicle stopped on the shoulder of the road.
As he pulled up behind the vehicle, the car’s driver got out and opened fire with a handgun.
Walker, 38, who was struck in the head and the abdomen, was taken to a Waco hospital in critical condition.
He died five days later at Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center, after sharing the gift of life as an organ donor.
State troopers were joined by area deputies and police officers in a massive search for the gunman, who was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“Our DPS family is absolutely heartbroken at the loss of one of our brothers in uniform who was killed in the line of duty,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said after Walker’s death.
Too many funerals
Walker was the third DPS trooper to die in the line of duty in Central Texas since 2017.
On Nov. 4, 2017, Senior DPS Trooper Thomas Nipper, 63, was killed when a pickup crashed into his patrol car during a traffic stop on Interstate 35 in Temple.
Less than three weeks later, on Nov. 23, 2017, Trooper Damon Allen, 41, was shot to death after a traffic stop on Interstate 45 south of Fairfield.
Like Walker, he was sitting in his patrol unit when the driver of the car he pulled over shot him.
Allen was remembered at a service in December 2017 at Mexia High School Football Stadium.
Gov. Greg Abbott was among the mourners.
Allen graduated in 1995 from Mexia High School, where he played football, and worked briefly at what is now the Mexia State Assisted Living Center and then for five years at a state prison unit before becoming a state trooper in 2002.
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