Hundreds of residents from the Treasure Valley and beyond stood in the rain at the Idaho Peace Officers' Memorial Tuesday night to honor officers who are still alive, although against the odds.
"We've never had an event like this," said memorial board president Mike Johnson, noting that gatherings at the Meridian site are generally to "honor the fallen."
The vigil, organized by the wives of local police officers, focused prayers, thanks and positive thinking toward the two Boise officers and one police dog who were shot during a confrontation with a fugitive in a Bench neighborhood Friday.
"It's such a good feeling," Johnson said, "especially with the good news."
That news, delivered by Boise Police Chief Bill Bones, included word that Special Operations Unit Cpl. Kevin Holtry, shot multiple times and in critical condition, had achieved a milestone.
"Today he was able to talk and tell his family how much he loves them," Bones said. "It lightens our souls."
"We started out really scared," Bones told the crowd, but the mood at the department is lifting thanks to the officers' improvement and a massive outpouring of community support.
Bones also happily announced that Jardo, the police dog that lost a lung after being shot Friday, is not only out of the hospital but ready to go back to work on "light duty" — a development that surprised the chief. Jardo is one of the most senior members of the BPD's K-9 corps, Bones said.
The crowd chanted "Jardo, Jardo" when handler Shane Williams " brought the Belgian Malinois out, his bearing still regal despite his side shaved from surgery prep.
Officer speaks to the media
Special Operations Unit Cpl. Chris Davis, who was shot once in the leg, was released from the hospital Saturday and spoke to reporters about his recovery outside Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center on Tuesday.
“It’s a day-by-day thing, but, I mean, it ... pales in comparison to Kevin,” he said of Holtry. “So we’re always thinking about him and how he’s doing.”
“I saw Kevin get shot and I was, you know, worried about him, but at the same time, we’re in the middle of a gun battle and I was worried about the other homeowners that were there and ... there were innocent people around the block,” Davis said.
Davis was not able to give many details about the incident, which is under investigation by the Critical Incident Task Force, led by Garden City Police.
The gunfight erupted while the Special Operations Unit, similar to SWAT, and other officers searched neighborhoods north of Emerald Street and east of Orchard Street for fugitive Marco Romero, who was wanted for a double shooting and a carjacking in Meridian earlier last week.
Romero was hiding in the neighborhood, and officers encountered him at 3:49 p.m. Friday at Irving and Wilson Streets. Neighbors reported hearing at least 10 shots.
Romero, 33, died of multiple gunshot wounds, the Ada County Coroner said. Police said he was shot by four Boise officers, including Davis.
Severely injured officer identified
Holtry, 49, also suffered multiple gunshot wounds, and his name was not released until Tuesday. Bones said Saturday that the department was waiting until they were able to talk to him.
Holtry’s family said they appreciate the community’s support and at this time are asking for privacy.
He joined Boise Police Department 17 years ago and has been in the department’s special operations unit for the past 13 years. He also has worked as a detective, neighborhood contact officer and police dog handler.
In 2014, he received a life-saving award for pulling a citizen out of the Boise River.
He served in the U.S. Army for three years and worked for the Ada County Sheriff’s Office before becoming a Boise police officer.
Holtry has a degree in English literature, but he decided to "trade in a comfortable life in the classroom for a life patrolling the streets," he told a 2015 class of BPD’s citizen academy, according to a post about that class session on the department’s Facebook page.
“If anyone can make sense of that and explain it to me, I’d appreciate it,” Holtry joked at the time.
He participates in the department’s citizen’s police academy and teaches self-defense classes in the community.
Crowd comes out in support
Many gathered at the memorial Tuesday night were in uniform from Boise police and surrounding police agencies, including Nampa and Custer County. Others were there because they knew one of the injured officers.
But many said they turned out just because they were shaken by the shooting and cheered that the officers and police dog survived.
"I haven't come to a vigil before. I figure it's time," said Shannon Riggs of Meridian, adding that it was nice to be able to attend a vigil when nobody had died.
Most members of the crowd held candles, shielded by cylinders of blue glass, which they raised in a gesture of toast to the officers who were wounded, and all officers.
As a band played "Amazing Grace," children and adults crowded around a long table, writing messages on a banner dedicated to police and emblazoned with "Idaho has your 'Six'" -- police lingo for having someone's back.
That banner shared a white tent with another table bearing four large baskets heaped with cards and drawings for Holtry, Davis, "any officer" and "dispatchers." On the floor next to the table, a bucket held greetings for Jardo.
"I think it's pretty cool the way the community is reacting to this," Boise police records supervisor Melissa Robinson said.
Bones said the outpouring of support for the injured officers, and police in general, makes it easier to go out on a dangerous job.
"It warms our souls and ... makes it all worthwhile," he said.