AUSTIN (KXAN) - At the Austin Police Department, those who know Det. Ken Casaday call him ‘Box’ because of his sheer physical size and strength.
But this mighty lawman is struggling with the death of a man he called a best friend for 15 years.
“I ate dinner with him every night for five years that we were on patrol (in South Austin),” Casaday said. “(Clay Crabb was) just a great friend.”
And this week, the bright tin badges APD officers wear on their uniforms, over their hearts, are covered with a strip of black mourning ribbon. Some are emblazoned with the Latin phrase "Nemo me impune lacessit," which translates to "No one attacks me with impunity."
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But the scope of Crabb’s sudden death in a highway collision in Hays County is far reaching.
His colleagues say most recently he worked on a school safety project and loved kids. And he was active in his faith community in Dripping Springs.
Lt. Crabb worked for four years as a police officer in San Angelo before becoming one of the first police officers to graduate Austin’s police academy in 1998 under the modified cadet program. It schools officers with existing military or other law enforcement experience in Austin police philosophy and gets them on the job in half the time.
Casaday graduated about the same time as Crabb and the two found themselves paired in southwest Austin, patrolling what was at the time, a prostitution- and drug-plagued section of South Congress Avenue.
“Now you can see how South Congress is. It’s a great place to live and raise a family," mused Casaday. “And I’d like to think we had a little part in that.”
After being promoted to detective, Crabb took on child abuse cases with APD. He later moved up to sergeant and led patrol officers in the southeast part of Austin. Last year, Crabb promoted to lieutenant, finishing in the top 10 of this exam class, city records show.
As well as being a by-the-book officer, Casaday said Crabb was a loving husband and devoted father of three young children aged 9, 7 and 4.
“That’s the thing that worries me the most is the three kids and making sure they’re taken care of," Casaday said. "It’s going to be hard being raised without a dad.”
Then this broad chested police officer paused, getting his emotions back into check before adding, “We’ll get through it. (Clay) is one of the 1,700 members we have (at the Austin Police Association) and it doesn’t matter who it is, it’s the same.” Casaday is vice president of the association.
It’s a coincidence that the last APD officer to die prematurely also hailed from San Angelo. Senior Officer Jaime Padron died in April 2012 after being shot by a man at a North Austin Walmart.
Funeral arrangements for Crabb are now a grim task that Casaday said he’ll take on for his friend and ‘brother in blue.’
It’s expected Crabb will be buried with full honors. It is unclear if his death will be labeled "on duty" although Casaday pointed out Crabb was in uniform, on his way to work and driving his city unmarked police car at the time of the collision on wet roads along U.S. 290. That could augment survivor benefits. But no final ruling has been made.
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