Final salute

Final salute

April 8th, 2011 by Carey O'Neil and Beth Burger in News

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The patrol sergeant's number, 554, was announced over the radio.

But after 26 years of service with the Chattanooga Police Department, the sergeant will never answer a call again.

"End of watch. April 2, 2011. May he rest in peace," police called over the radio one last time for Sgt. Tim Chapin, who was killed Saturday trying to apprehend a robbery suspect.

"We had the distinct honor of serving along side him," Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd said through tears at Chapin's funeral Thursday. "His death created a great void in our lives, our community and our department that we'll never be able to fill."

Jesse Mathews, 25, is accused of shooting Chapin in the head outside a Brainerd Road pawnshop.

Dodd, who began his service with Chattanooga police around the same time as Chapin, described the sergeant as a "calm, peaceful and thoughtful" person who "put people at ease."

Dodd paused for a moment, struggling to keep his composure for the few minutes he spoke.

"Tim, you're a hero," he said with tearful eyes and a quivering voice. "You're my hero, and you'll be sorely missed."

Close to a dozen doves were released at Chapin's gravesite in Hixson's Hamilton Memorial Gardens on Highway 153. Another dove was released immediately after the first dozen, symbolizing Chapin following those who have gone before him.

At the burial, Chapin's wife, Kelle, clutched an American flag presented to her. Her children, Allison and Nicholas, stood beside her, with Chapin's casket in front of them. The family remained composed throughout the services, but lingered for a few moments as others began to leave the grave site.

Ron Phillips is senior pastor at Abba's House Central Baptist Church, where Chapin was a church member for 22 years. Phillips spoke before the burial service to about 2,800 mourners, most of whom were wearing law enforcement uniforms.

Phillips noted that, when Chapin was confronting the robber, he chose to draw his Taser instead of a gun to show less force.

"He could have shot this man," said Phillips. "My advice is to shoot him and then Taser him."

Phillips also spoke of Chapin's sacrifice and faith in God.

"Some say Tim lost his life. No, Tim gave his life for his community," he said. "There's a difference."

Outside the church just before services began, a long motorcade of marked patrol cars from various surrounding law enforcement agencies, ranging from the Knoxville Police Department to the Georgia State Patrol, flashed blue lights as Chapin's body was brought to the church in a hearse.

Before the service, only a handful of spectators stood outside, watching as hundreds of officers lined up out of respect to receive one of their own. But by the time the service was over, hundreds of people had lined up, waving flags and memorial signs as the funeral procession left the church and walked down Hixson Pike to the cemetery.

Many spectators were silent and some saluted as a fleet of motorcycles filed out of the church parking lot, followed by the honor guard, thousands of mourners and North Carolina Trooper's Association horses, pulling a caisson with Chapin's casket.

Tears began to stream down people's faces as the coffin passed. Some placed their hands over their hearts.

Soddy-Daisy police officer Eric Jenkins walked in the procession and remembers when he began as a rookie Chattanooga police officer. Chapin was one of his training officers.

"He took care of us by doing the job. He knew how to handle and deal with everything," said Jenkins in a previous interview. "He was a really good friend."

Becky Seale, 39, of Hixson, never met Chapin, but she waited a couple of hours to attend visitation at Abba's House on Wednesday and stood alongside Hixson Pike as the funeral procession passed.

"He's an officer. These officers put their lives on the line every day," she said. "When one loses their life, we should come out and pay respects.

"I've never seen so many people. There were people like me who didn't even know him. There were officers from all over."

Seale said there was something that struck her about Chapin's story.

"Just going to a call for an armed robbery - knowing that you might not come home - but you do it anyway," she said.

During visitation and the service inside Abba's House, photos from Chapin's childhood and family photographs flashed upon screens. They showed the officer in his home, out with friends and playing with his children in the snow. In almost all of them, Chapin wore a quiet, slight smile.

"To see pictures of him, you got a sense of who he was," Seale said.

In one old photo, Chapin held his daughter, Allison, on his shoulders, her hands folded on top of his head.

"That's Daddy's girl. That's the best seat in the house," Seale said, smiling.