AUSTIN (KXAN) — A final goodbye to a husband, father and son comes Tuesday as Hutto Police Sgt. Christopher Kelley is laid to rest. Funeral services at Shoreline Church in Northwest Austin honored the man many described as selfless with a standing ovation for his life and service.
“In one instant, our lives stopped,” said Kelley’s wife and life partner of nearly 14 years, Michele Kelley, through her tears as she recalled “that heart-wrenching day” that claimed the life of her husband. “I really did love and marry my best friend. He was our rock, our protector … To my community, you have come together — providing our family an overwhelming amount of support and love … To my children, I love you. I promise to always be there for you, and I promise to help you never forget your daddy. And to my love, I promise to love and protect your babies. You are loved by so many. I love you, and I will always love you. You are our hero, and I am proud to be your wife. Please watch over us and protect us and let us know you’re still here. Until we meet again, love you.”
Kelley’s sister, mother and father wrote a letter for the service, and his aunt Becky Meyer and cousin Travis Meyer spoke about some of the words they’d gathered after asking his friends and family to describe him in one word. Among the dozens of bold adjectives, his aunt said above all else, Kelley was a hero. He was a hero whose idea of fun was simply spending time with his family and working in his yard. Kelley’s aunt shared how overjoyed Kelley was just two weeks ago celebrating his son’s fourth birthday, watching his kids play from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on “one of the best days of his life.”
“We will always carry Chris in our hearts, our minds and our souls,” she said.
“I loved you from the moment we brought you home … always knew then, as I knew as an adult, that you had my back,” read his sister’s letter. “I will miss you every day for the rest of my life.”
“I just want you to know, you’ve been the best son anyone could ever ask for,” wrote his mother, who said if she had known that Father’s Day weekend was the last time she’d hug and speak to her son that she would never have let him go. “I’ve never been prouder. You defended your country and the citizens of Hutto and laid down your life to keep us safe … Godspeed, and I can’t wait to see you again in heaven.”
“Chris, like a lot of policemen, did not look at being a policemen as his job — but instead his passion and his way of life,” wrote his father, who also spoke about the many hours joking with him, the pride experienced during life’s milestones, and his son’s deep love for his babies. “I love you. I will see you on the other side. God has you now; Sgt. Chris Kelley is 10-42.”
Meanwhile, Michele took some time to thank Kelley’s brothers and sisters in blue, saying that she and Hutto Police Chief Earl Morrison were now forever connected.
Morrison says he celebrates the fact that they were lucky to know Kelley. Morrison shared a letter Kelley wrote just before one of his deployments; a Texas native and high school graduate from Elgin, Kelley enlisted in the Air Force at the age of 18 and served for eight years — until 2004 — including tours in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
In Kelley’s letter, he wrote that some men chose early on what their purpose was in life — saying he deemed himself a defender, one that stands at the gates so that other may feel safe inside his walls.
“A defender, a hero, a son, a husband, a daddy, a leader, a neighbor and friend,” Morrison added to the list, before answering the tough question that Kelley’s friends and family continue to ask: How do you go on? “We go on because Chris would want us to go on.”
“Chris broke the bar, covered it up, remade the bar,” said Matt Toomey of his best friend’s standards and integrity.
“He was a one-of-a-kind role model,” said Chris Vela, remembering not only his friendship with Kelley but also moments of his police career with him. “Chris always led from the front, and we eagerly followed … Chris, you are my best friend. I love you now and forever will.”
“Chris was a gift to the City of Hutto,” said Hutto City Manager Karen Daley. “He was a great cop and supervisor with a wicked sense of humor.”
Daley says all of the stories and memories of Kelley have the same underlying theme: He could instantly connect with who he was helping and put his heart and soul in every case and citizen he served. Kelley answered the call of duty every time, Daley recalled. She says because the Hutto Police Department is inside city hall, they got to interact more than other police departments throughout Central Texas get to interact with other city employees.
Daley says Kelley approached the world with great service — service to the city that set the bar for others.
“His approach to the world, to his work and to his life was dedication,” said Daley. “We won’t get to see that gleam of mischief in his eye … or listen to that rapid-fire quick wit anymore … Thanks for sharing Chris with us. We are all better for it.”
After the funeral, first responders led a procession to a cemetery in Kileen where Sgt. Kelley was buried. Dozens of people lined the side of the highway, showing their support as the motorcade passed by.
Car after car lined the side of SH 130 in Hutto to see miles of flashing cars fill the lanes, all eyes on a hearse carrying the body of Sgt. Christopher Kelley.
“So heartbreaking because (police officers) make huge sacrifices for us in life,” said Rene Scifres, who didn’t know Kelley, but lined up for the procession.
Some people who came out to honor Chris Kelley say they worked closely with the Hutto Police Department. They say they’re remembering Sgt. Kelley by hoisting the American flag.
Stars and stripes sit on top of a Triton Towing truck. General manager Telle Mejia says he worked with Sgt. Kelley a few times on the road.
“We want to show some respect to Sgt. Chris Kelley, I got my team members here to show a little respect,” said Telle.
You can feel the respect, with hand over heart, visible Hutto pride, and little kids waving flags. Whether or not you knew Sgt. Kelley, the Hutto community and beyond, know we lost a true hero.
“He was a good officer, Hutto is going to miss him, it’s going to be pretty sad,” said Greg Grimes, who lives in Hutto.
Hutto is safer because Sgt. Kelley did live, and he’ll continue to do so in the hearts of many.
Hundreds of cars and motorcycles took part in the procession for Kelley. It lasted about a half hour.
During last week’s tragedy, KXAN News spoke to the man who plans all Honor Guard funerals for Texas law enforcement officers who fall in the line of duty.
Austin Police Sgt. Tim Kresta wants to make sure Kelley’s two young children remember who their dad was.
“A lot of their memories of their dad will fade. The memories we will try to make here for them, we hope to leave a lasting imprint in their mind, so they see that their dad mattered,” said Kresta. “As the pain fades a little, that that plants the seeds for them to actually move forward.”
The man who police say killed Kelley is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on a public servant. Investigators say Colby Ray Williamson took control of Kelley’s car and that he backed over Kelley during a struggle for the steering wheel.
Kelley tried to pull over Williamson for a traffic stop in Hutto, but police say that when the 26-year-old refused to stop, a chase followed. A home security camera showed the black car spinning out of control, and the chase ended in a crash. That’s when police say Williamson ran away.