SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — A group that provides financial and emotional support to families of first responders killed in the line of duty was in Hays County early Tuesday morning, planning to meet with the family of Officer Kenneth Copeland. It’s an even more difficult task for Tami Baker with the 100 Club of Central Texas, because of the personal connection she had with Copeland.
“I met him the night that I met my husband 29 years ago,” Baker said. “So to deal with that and to know what an absolutely wonderful individual he was and everything the chief had said about him and what a hero he truly was, yeah. When it’s personal, it does make it a little different.”
Copeland, a 19-year veteran of the San Marcos Police Department, was shot and killed while serving a warrant on his day off Monday, the first officer killed in the line of duty in the department’s history. He’s survived by a wife and four children.
“As a spouse of a first responder, just knowing what the wife of the other first responder is going through” makes the situation difficult, Baker said. Her husband works for the Austin Police Department and both of them knew Copeland and his family personally. Baker’s husband and Copeland worked together at another department, she said, and were fraternity brothers.
Baker, the 100 Club’s chair, told KXAN this is third time the organization has responded to the death of an officer in the central Texas area this year. It doesn’t get easier, she said, for the 100 Club or for the departments that lose officers.
Copeland also worked security at the Promiseland Church in San Marcos for the last three years, getting to know the congregation and always showing up with a smile on his face, Pastor Mike Hollifield told KXAN Tuesday morning.
Hollifield lives in the subdivision where the shooting happened and got back home about a half hour after Copeland had been shot, but he didn’t realize at the time what had happened.
“When I found out who it was, was actually … when Chief of Police was talking about it,” he said, “and it really hit, it hit hard. Because he was my friend.”
Hollifield said Copeland was always happy to meet people at the church and didn’t have “a bad bone in his body.” A church member told KXAN Monday night the last time he saw Copeland, the officer greeted and complimented his family.
The pastor called the act “senseless.”
“The fact that he was doing it on his day off, too, to provide for his family,” Hollifield said, “it was really hard. It was really hard.”
Police departments in the area are stepping up to provide support as the San Marcos Police Department deals with the tragedy. The Hays County Sheriff’s Office will help cover call during Copeland’s memorial service and funeral, and will assist with the dispatch center as well. A spokesman says Hays County took over all the department’s calls when the shooting happened so San Marcos officers could respond. Austin police also say they’ve offered assistance and “stand ready to provide it if requested to do so,” as have other departments.
Gov. Greg Abbott has also ordered Texas flags in San Marcos to fly at half staff to remember Copeland.
Meanwhile the memorial of flowers continues to grow inside the San Marco Police Department. Sandy Myers is married to a San Marcos police officer and says the small department is coming together.
“We all consider each other family even though we aren’t related by blood, we are related. We all hurt when somebody is hurting and we all celebrate when someone is celebrating. They are a tight nit group of officers from Chief Stapp all the way down.”
If you’d like to donate to the 100 Club of Central Texas to help support the survivors fund used in situations like this, follow this link.