CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — Cedar Park High School senior Mikayla Hunter, who has spent most of her life without her father, walked across the graduation stage on Saturday at Cedar Park Center.
Mikayla was just 2 years old when her father, Austin Police Department Officer Clinton Hunter, was killed in the line of duty.
During a police chase on Nov. 29, 2001, Hunter was trying to set up spike strips along a road when he was hit and killed by the suspect.
A group of Austin police officers promised to always be there for Mikayla — and they were.
This extended family — bonded by their badge — showed up to surprise her. Around 15 officers waited behind the curtain at the ceremony waiting for her to walk across the stage.
“I think she knows a couple of us are going to be here. I don’t think she knows how many people are going to be here,” said APD Officer Ryan Miller. “I think she’ll be surprised to see us and I know she’ll be grateful.”
Miller said Mikayla has stepped in to help children of other officers who have been killed.
“She has reached out when our Officer Amir Abdul-Khaliq was killed,” he said. “She reached out to his children to kind of offer her support since she’s been through it.”
As soon as Mikayla’s name was called, she stepped off the stage and was greeted by a long line of officers ready to say “congratulations” and give lots of hugs.
“Oh, it’s so great. I love the support. It’s awesome. I thank you all for coming so much,” Mikayla said. “Thank y’all for coming. It’s very great. It almost made me tear up seeing all of you.”
Officer Miller, who went through the police academy with Mikayla’s dad, has a good idea of what he would’ve done on this special day.
“He would probably have something funny to say or something to make her laugh, but he would absolutely be proud of her,” he said. “We all are.”
On Saturday, Austin police made it clear to Mikayla that it’s not just a motto – the fallen are never forgotten, and family always sticks together.
Mikayla plans on attending Texas Tech University in the fall.
Yesterday, APD officers also surprised one of Officer Amir Abdul-Khaliq’s sons at the McNeil High School graduation.