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This week, I attended the memorial service for Fayetteville Police Officer Stephen Carr, who was killed in the line of duty last week.
The perpetrator ambushed and killed Officer Carr as he sat in his patrol car behind the Fayetteville Police Department.
Today, I’d like to pay tribute to Officer Carr, and to thank his fellow officers in Fayetteville and police officers all over Arkansas.
Stephen Carr grew up in Texas and attended Southwest Baptist University in Missouri on a football scholarship. He graduated with a degree in finance and economics. His first job was with Sam’s Club. But his real passion was law enforcement. The Fayetteville Police Department hired him in April 2017. By all accounts, Officer Carr was a gentle giant with a laugh that made others laugh. His concern for the people on his police beat once led him to take off his shoes so he could give his socks to a homeless man.
On August 4, 2017, Stephen graduated from the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy. I delivered the keynote address to the graduates that day.
I told them that police officers hold a special place in the community. As police officers, they have the responsibility to keep us safe; to uphold the rule of law; and to treat each person they encounter with respect.
Stephen Carr did all of that and more. He fulfilled his duties with integrity, professionalism, and a genuine love of people.
I also told the graduates there has never been a time in my life when police work has been more dangerous. That’s even more true in 2019. In spite of the growing risks, those graduates and hundreds like them, have chosen law enforcement as a career. Every day that they are on duty, they pin a badge to their chest, put on their protective gear, and go to work, confident that their tools, their training, and their instincts will see them safely through another shift.
I’m sure that’s what Officer Carr thought on the evening of December 7 as he waited in his patrol car for Officer Natalie Eucce, his partner.
But what started as a routine shift ended tragically.
When the man fatally shot Officer Carr, Officer Eucce and Corporal Seay Floyd heard the gunfire and ran out the back of the police station. They saw Officer Carr’s killer and chased him.
In the words of Police Chief Mike Reynolds, their quick action likely saved other lives because the assailant had the capacity and apparent intent to kill others.
Officer Eucce was Stephen’s partner, and she also was his classmate at the thirteen-week police academy. None of us would have imagined that just two-and-a-half years later, I would be speaking at Officer Carr’s funeral and that Officer Eucce, the classmate who chased down his killer, would be sitting in the audience.
While I spoke of the dangers of police work that day in August 2017, the message I hoped the graduates would take with them was that each of us is grateful for the sacrifices they make on our behalf.
That’s still my message. Police officers are special people who enforce the law and arrest those who ignore it. Once in a while, officers even give their socks to someone less fortunate.