AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than a thousand friends and colleagues packed into a North Austin church Wednesday to pay their final respects to a Travis County Sheriff’s Deputy who was killed after being swept away by floodwaters while checking a low water crossing Sept. 18.
“One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is going to the house that first night and saying that we didn’t find Jessica,” said Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton.
Divers pulled her body from lake Austin the next day, about 36 hours after she disappeared.
“I might be sitting up here crying, but I’m alright because she’s gone home. And I said I was going to bring her back,” he said. “I brought her back to her earthly home. Now, she’s in her heavenly home.”
Hollis was the first deputy to die while under Hamilton’s command.
“(Former Travis County Sheriff) Margo Fraser, Art Acevedo, I’ve never experienced anything like this, and I know you have,” Hamilton remarked, “and I don’t wish this on my enemy.”
Hamilton added that he took life for granted and never got to tell Hollis he loved her and didn’t want to make that mistake again.
“I’m here to tell you that I love each and every one of you, and I’ll do anything for you,” speaking to other deputies in the crowd.
“Truth, justice and integrity. That was Jessica,” said Lt. Joe Escribano. He later told the group gathered at the church that fellow deputies put a Princess Leia bobblehead in her patrol car as a joke. He said her bun and “spitfire ways” reminded her shift-mates of Princess Leia.
“Jessica didn’t care about what people thought. She didn’t care about protecting herself or her reputation. She cared about doing what was right,” said her childhood friend Monica Hatchet.
Following the funeral, Deputies escorted the casket out of the church and into a waiting hearse. The procession left the church and made its way to the cemetery. As the front of the procession reached the end of the procession, there were still dozens of cars still waiting to leave the church parking lot.
At the graveside service, aerial photos showed a sea of brown and blue uniforms gathered to pay their last respects to Deputy Hollis.
The ceremony featured an honorary three-round volley of shots.
As the bugler played “Taps,” the flag was removed from its position where it draped her casket and was tightly folded. The honor guard presented it to Sheriff Hamilton. The sheriff took the flag and delivered it to Deputy Hollis’ son, Mason.
Then, the traditional riderless horse, with boots facing backwards in the stirrups walked past the grave site, symbolizing a fallen hero.
Helicopters from APD and STARFlight flew in formation overhead, the humming of the rotors provided gentle background noise for the final 10-42 radio call. The code, 10-42, is used to alert dispatchers that an officer is ending his or her shift. In the case of Deputy Hollis, she was considered on duty and assigned to the call until Sheriff Hamilton called in the final 10-42 Wednesday afternoon, signifying the end of Deputy Hollis’ duty.