Eric Talley, the 51-year-old police officer killed responding to a gunman at a Boulder grocery store on Monday afternoon, was working toward a position with less dangerous duty to spare his family worry for his safety, his father said.
The father of seven was one of 10 people killed in the mass shooting at a King Soopers store.
“He loved his kids and his family more than anything,” said Homer Talley, Eric’s father, in a statement released to media outlets. “He was looking for a job to keep himself off of the front lines and was learning to be a drone operator. He didn’t want to put his family through something like this, and he believed in Jesus Christ.”
Talley served the Boulder department for 10 years. His children ranged in age from 7 to 20, according to his family.
Talley is one of six Boulder officers who have been killed in the line of duty, according to Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver. The last officer to die was Officer Beth Haynes, who was killed on April 16, 1994.
“He died charging into the line of fire trying to save people who were simply trying to live their lives and go food shopping,” Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said.
President Joe Biden, speaking from the White House on Tuesday, praised Talley as the “definition of an American hero.”
Boulder police Chief Maris Herold said Talley had been in her office just days before the shooting so that one of his sons could receive an award for saving a sibling’s life by using CPR he learned from his dad.
“He’s a very kind man,” Herold said of Talley “He didn’t have to go into policing. He had a profession before this, but he felt a higher calling. He loved this community. He’s everything that policing deserves and needs. He cared about this community. He cared about Boulder Police Department. He cared about his family.”
She added: “He was willing to die to protect others.”
A woman identified as Talley’s younger sister tweeted a photo of the two of them as children and said her heart was broken. Talley, she said, wanted to be a pilot but could not because of color blindness.
“I cannot explain how beautiful he was and what a devastating loss this is to so many,” she wrote. “Fly high my sweet brother.”
Talley was one of the first on the scene at King Soopers, the police department said. “His life was cut much too short,” Dougherty said during a news conference.
After dark Monday night, law enforcement officers and other first responders from across the state lined up their vehicles, lights flashing, and drove in procession as Talley’s body was taken from the site of the shootings.
Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Lt. Jeremy Herko, a friend of Talley’s, told The Washington Post that Talley went into law enforcement after working in information technology.
“It was remarkable to me that somebody would go to law enforcement from IT,” he said. “He lost pay. He lost time away from his family. He joined the police academy without a guaranteed job.”
“That was his life,” Herko added. “He absolutely loved his job and wanted to serve the community.”