BOULDER, Colo. — A year has now passed since a gunman opened fire inside the King Soopers store on Table Mesa Drive in Boulder. The first Boulder police officer to respond was shot and killed almost as soon as he entered the store.
Officer Eric Talley is also one of ten victims being remembered from that tragic March afternoon.
Talley’s patrol sergeant and friend, Adrian Drelles, wanted to share not only what kind of officer Talley was, but how his death has impacted the entire department as well as the Boulder community.
Drelles said any officer’s life experience plays a huge role in forming their manner, ethics and empathy.
“He wasn't the youngest cop by any means,” Sgt. Drelles said. “Talley was coming into the career as having worked another field, where I was used to most of the new cops were 21, 22, 23 years old.”
Already in his 40s, Talley had a deep connection with his community and an understanding of what it meant to serve and to protect.
Sgt. Drelles was Talley’s boss. He’ll tell you that Talley entered the Boulder Police Department with a maturity that stood out. He also had a nonstop energy that was amazing to watch.
“Depending on the situation at the time, he could be very serious and very endearing and caring,” Sgt. Drelles said. “If there was something going on with an officer's personal life or even, you know, a trainee that was struggling through our training program — that's incredibly stressful. He would see that, recognize that he could be kind of that mentor, nurturing person.”
And as the sergeant put it, Talley was a goofball and a prankster when the moment was right. Talley was always one of those colleagues who didn’t have to announce his presence.
“He was that guy that when he was in the hallway, there was no doubt he was in the hallway. You could hear him laughing all the way across the building," Sgt. Drelles said.
There was laughter despite what was among the worst of times for those in law enforcement. Yet, there was not a single moment of pause when Talley gave his life to protect others one year ago.
“At the time of the incident, given the political climate and things that were going on around the world, I think the sentiment towards law enforcement was not very good. And we're all people. We're regular people," Sgt. Drelles said. "And when you come to work every single day and you're getting yelled at and screamed at and told how awful you are, you know it wears on you and it beats you down. And I think the morale at the department was really low.”
Losing someone like Talley offered a new perspective within the Boulder Police Department.
“I think his sacrifice has definitely brought the department together,” Sgt. Drelles said.
It was an incredible impact at a difficult time. Yet, little did those in the department know that the impact of Talley’s death would be much deeper outside the department as well. It prompted a cultural shift.
“People were actually taking the time to stop and ask questions about who we are as people — what our job actually is, about asking real good questions," Sgt. Drelles said. “Prior to all this, people would wave. People would say hi, but nobody, for the most part really, asks who you are or wanted to know about you, as a person. That has changed drastically since this happened. People stopped me all the time. ... People will actually ask me about my personal life, you know, why I do this and all about my family life. It was the coolest stuff I’ve ever seen in the job.”
The partnership rekindled from a tragedy and offered perhaps a deeper understanding of who officers like Talley really are.
Sgt. Drelles said if there is one thing to remember about Talley and all the officers on the force, it’s this: “He's not just a uniform out there helping people. He was a father and was a son. He's a husband. And he's a member of that community that gave his life in order to try to improve it.”
That's something Sgt. Drelles said is just too easy to forget.