A little more than a month ago, Chattanooga Police Sgt. Tim Chapin was gunned down responding to a robbery on Brainerd Road.
On Thursday, seven members of his family stood as his name was called during a law enforcement ceremony for fallen officers. Chapin’s name was added to the list of 49 area officers slain in the line of duty since 1879.
Local law enforcement agencies gather at the annual memorial to remember and honor those who no longer serve beside them.
“We hope we never have to add a name to it,” said Chattanooga Police Assistant Chief Tim Carroll, who reflected on Chapin’s passing. “Of course, it’s so close to Tim’s [death] — it’s a little more special to us. Then again, you go back and relive those seconds. It’s one of those healing processes you go through, and that’s why we’re here.”
As blue lights flashed on patrol cars lining the 600 block of Market Street, officers in dress blue uniforms walked forward carrying a rose symbolizing a fallen officer before turning toward the memorial, saluting and walking away.
For the Chapin family, the pain of the sergeant’s brutal death is still fresh.
“We suffer through this every morning and every night — every waking minute of the day. And we’re anxious for the courts to do their job and see that justice is done,” said Ralph Chapin, Sgt. Tim Chapin’s father and a former Marion County deputy. “Things like this shouldn’t exist on this Earth.”
Speaker Jay Woods, assistant U.S. attorney for Tennessee Eastern District, quoted statistics to signal a rise in officer deaths.
“They place themselves in harm’s way, risking life and limb running toward danger all in the name of order. Ultimately, there is one reason they serve. That is because they care,” he said.
He said officer fatalities were up 17 percent, and two-thirds of people who used guns to kill officers were not allowed to have firearms by law. Of 48 officers killed in the line of duty in 2009, 21 officers were in the South, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics.
“We pause to remember those officers who didn’t come home at the end of a shift,” he said.
Woods reflected on Chapin’s death and accounts of bravery after several officers responded to the robbery-in-progress call at U.S. Money Shops. Chapin chased suspect Jesse Mathews, who was packing two guns, in his patrol car and struck him. Gunfire was exchanged and Chapin was struck and killed.
It’s a scenario that can haunt a patrol officer, Woods said. They fire round after round and the assailant just keeps coming. Mathews, who is charged in Chapin’s death, reportedly wore a bulletproof vest.
“He lived every officer’s worst nightmare,” Woods said of Chapin.
Heads were bowed. Prayers were sent above. Two wreaths were placed in front of the memorial. After the fallen officers’ names were read aloud, a riderless horse walked down Market Street and bagpipes sounded.
Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd said the memorial is a way to “honor and reflect on the officers who have given the ultimate sacrifice.”
“I think in my 25 years, this is fifth officer we have had killed in the line of duty. And Tim and I were close,” said Dodd, who worked as a patrolman with Chapin.
“We were friends. All of them are significant to us, but once you have somebody who’s a close friend — somebody who you work with that long — it’s actually more personal. ... He was a good cop. A good father. A good friend. Just all around good guy.”
The families of some officers whose names are on the memorial sat together during the ceremony.
Leon Jackson, 57, was there to honor his cousin, Chattanooga Police Officer Ulysses Jackson, who was shot and killed in 1952 at age 29.
Jackson’s father also attended, clutching a rose in honor of his son. The service brings a sense of pride because Ulysses Jackson was one of the first black officers in the Chattanooga department.
“For all police officers that put that their life on the line. I just feel like we need to pay tribute to them as often as possible because it’s a thankless job, at times,” Jackson said. “They deserve a lot more recognition than they get.”