The final farewell for Sgt. Craig Hutchinson began with a salute shortly after sunrise Tuesday at a North Austin funeral home. The long motorcade processional of blue and red flashing lights from the funeral home up Lamar was greeted by large numbers of people who stopped and stood along the roadway as it passed by.
For those who wear the badge, the show of respect was deeply moving.
"It's very touching to me when I see it because it's nice to know we have individuals in the community that respect the job we do and understand the difficulties that we face day in and day out," said AISD Police Chief Eric Mendez.
When the motorcade arrived at Shoreline Church, the hearse carrying Sgt Hutchinson drove under a flag draped arch created by two fire trucks. Sheriff Greg Hamilton and several close coworkers served as pall bearers and carried Hutchinson's casket into the sanctuary. "We pray for healing for healing for the family we pray for healing for the community staying," said TCSO Chaplain Tommy McIntosh.
The service was a celebration of the life of a leader, teacher and friend. Holding a hulk doll, Sgt. Belinda Mangum noted her former partners size and stature, but also said he was a gentle giant of a man.
"Hutch had a lot of philosophies but three simple rules: do it right, be safe, and have fun doing it," said Mangum.
Det Greg Lawson's tribute to Hutchinson,who was a training officer for the Sheriff's Department, included amusing stories of hijinks known as being 'Hutched.' "And I thought of him as a big brother, he taught me things.. I would not be who I am today if I had not been 'Hutched' multiple times and he continues teaching us things," said Lawson.
Sheriff Greg Hamilton was among those trained by Hutchinson and he spoke of the pain he felt when notified about the fatal shooting. "And you need to understand, that each and everyone of us, whether we're wearing a badge or whether working at a grocery store, our time is marked. The question, is will you be ready? I believe Hutchinson was ready," said Sheriff Hamilton.
The sheriff also urged those who may be thinking of quitting law enforcement to hold steady, believing the current anti-cop rhetoric while eventually pass. "We need to understand that we might have come over here in a different vocal we are in the same boat now and you need to understand is that we in this boat there is a gaping hole and we're going to have to fix this boat together or we're going to perish." Hamilton closed indicating he believes the healing he wants for the community will be possible, in part, because of the lessons Sgt Hutchinson leaves behind.
Sheriff Hamilton's words of unity provided hope but the deadly confrontation that brought people to the church wasn't forgotten. The burglars who shot Hutchinson at his Round Rock home remain on the run. During the ceremony it was noted that SWAT team members were posted inside and on the roof of the church to provide protection for those who came to honors the Travis County Lawman.