AUSTIN (KXAN) - Senior Police Officer Jaime Padron was remembered Wednesday as a dedicated law enforcement professional, a proud Marine and dedicated dad.
"Above all else, he was a hero," said Police Chief Art Acevedo at the service for the fallen officer at a packed Shoreline Church. "... He is in heaven right now."
When he was killed, Padron was responding to a call that a Wal-Mart shopper who appeared to be drunk was wandering the store. That shopper, 24-year-old Brandon Daniel, is charged with capital murder and remain in custody with no bail amount set.
The chief singled out Wal-Mart assistant store manager Archie Jordy and employee Lincoln LeMere, who stepped in and risked their own safety to assist Padron after his he was shot.
"That is who we work for every day," Acevedo said as the everyone inside the sanctuary stood and applauded. "Thanks for being the angels at his side the entire time."
Wal-Mart has donated $50,000 to a fund for a trust fund for his daughters, the chief said. The company also donated $25,000 to APD, which Acevedo said will be used for the Explorers program, in his honor.
Acevedo mixed solemnity with levity, recalling such times in Padron's career when the officer's outgoing personality even won over some of the suspects he was called on to arrest. One of them, the chief said, even came back to make a $10 check to the fund set up to help Padron's family.
And the chief also spoke warmly of Padron's beaming smile.
"Don't forget that smile," the chief said. "Because a smile is a symbol of respect and strength.
Before Acevedo spoke at the service, Padron's fellow officer and partner Rahim Kidd delivered an emotional and personal eulogy for his friend.
"Jaime, you will always be with me. Always," Kidd said. "You are my brother."
The eulogy was part of a meticulously planned ceremony for Padron, who was shot and killed early Friday morning at a North Austin store. His accused shooter, Brandon Daniel, 24, remains in Travis County Jail.
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell praised Padron's service not only to Austin, but to the San Angelo Police Department and to the Marines, where the officer served in both Gulf wars. And Austin singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa performed " Gracisa a la Vida," which in English means "Thank You for Life."
Earlier, the head of the Austin Police Association on Wednesday praised Padron for his leadership abilities and for his years of service to three police agencies.
"He was destined to be a leader in our organization, just like he was a leader wherever he went," APA President Wayne Vincent said on KXAN News Today. "An outstanding police officer."
Vincent, an Austin police sergeant, made the remarks on the morning before a three-day service will begin for Padron, 40 and a father of two, who was shot and killed on Friday at a North Austin Wal-Mart. The service started at 11 a.m. at Shoreline Church, 15201 Burnet Road, and will end with Padron's burial on Friday in his hometown of San Angelo.
After the church service, vehicles from countless public safety agencies across the state departed for a circuitous route around Austin that will finally take Patron's body to San Angelo.
Along the route that included stretches of State Highway 45, Interstate 35 and Ben White Boulevard, hundreds of onlookers lined overpasses and roadsides to catch a glimpse of the procession that stretched by some estimates more than two miles long.
Many saluted, some carried American flags and others simply watched the seemingly endless parade of squad cars and motorcycles.
"I didn't know the officer, but still paying respects to the Austin Police Department who keeps us safe around here," said Kelly Oliver.
A man named "Nick" said, "He was out there to serve and protect and he ended up paying with his life, and so this is the least I can do."
"My heart goes out to his family. He wasn't just you know protecting our community, he served our country. And I just want to say, I thank god for the Austin Police Department and all the heroes that survive and the ones that didn't," said Kisha Williams.
Deborah Albers said, "I just pray for their family to heal and go forward."
As the motorcade proceeded south along I-35 through the heart of the city, the northbound lanes of the freeway crawled to a near standstill while drivers strained to view the passing flow of vehicles.
Padron, who also had served on the San Angelo Police Department and on the police force for Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, was a member of the board of the Austin Police Association. The organization advocates for officers on matters such as working conditions and compensation.
Vincent said that officers are still coming to grips with the fact that one of their own was gunned down in the line of duty, an occurrence not seen on the Austin force since 1978.
"We're just focusing on supporting each other, getting through the grieving process," he said. "The justice system will take care of the other part of it. It's
just a stark reminder that we have no idea what the circumstances involved are every time we make a contact with somebody out there."
At the funeral, Acevedo called on the department's officers and Austin residents to rise above any anger they might harbor.
"What this has shown us is that we're 2,300 servants," he said. "2,300 members of our department, they're not wasting time on anger, because they understand what it's about.
"They understand anger is a wasted emotion. They understand that by showing compassion for this family they're going to gather strength. I promise you that we're going to be a better organization because of this."
Vincent asked that residents keep Padron's service in mind -- and to empathize with his colleagues as they continue to go about their duty to the community.
"What is so amazing is you have police officers that watched their brother officer go down," he said. "Their families are scared now that they know it can happen.
"And yet those same police officers are back on the street the next day. So, just a simple thank you for being out there, keeping our community safe goes a long way."
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