By Kati Moody
When the call comes, Levelland police officers are eager and willing to answer in order to hold the line for their brothers and sisters in need.
Friday, Levelland police officers traveled to Uvalde, the community that was recently shattered by the tragedy at Robb Elementary that took the lives of 19 children and two adults.
Levelland officers will help in assisting Uvalde police and Uvalde ISD police in continuing to answer the call of duty while allowing those officers some respite.
“It was a simple decision because it’s morally the right thing to do and because we’ve been there, we know what it’s like to be in need of assistance and to have that kind of support,” said Levelland Police Chief Albert Garcia.
Garcia said he received an email around the end of the day Thursday from the Texas Police Chief’s Association expressing a need for manpower in Uvalde following the tragic event Tuesday.
“The email basically expressed a need for manpower to help cover the streets as well as for possible security detail when the president arrives and things like that,” Garcia said. “It said time is of the essence.”
Garcia said there were two officers in his doorway when he was on the phone with a sergeant from Uvalde and when he hung up, they immediately volunteered to go.
“It shows the caliber of men and women we have working for our city and the dedication they have for a job,” Garcia said. “It’s not just about going out and making traffic stops, it’s about doing the right thing and serving man kind. It says a lot.”
In July last year, the Levelland Police Department experienced its own local tragedy when Sgt. Joshua Bartlett of the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office was killed responding to a barricaded subject in Levelland. Sgt. Shawn Wilson of the Levelland Police Department was also injured during the incident.
During that time, around 30 agencies from across the area, region and state responded to assist Levelland police not only with the call on July 15, but also in the aftermath.
“We know what it’s like to be in need of assistance and have the kind of support we did,” Garcia said. “Sometimes you have to pay it forward and that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re going to make sure we’re taking care of all those who put the call out and we’re going to go. It’s really that simple, it’s doing what is morally and ethically correct.”
Uvalde is a city with a population of approximately 16,000, similar in size and feel to the community of Levelland. Garcia said one of the main reasons Uvalde police are in such need of manpower is because they, too, are community members who deserve time to process, grieve and mourn what has occurred in their community.
“They’re members of the community, just like we’re members of our community and many of them have seen these kids and spent time with them and their families, that affects them personally, as well,” Garcia said. “They need to have the opportunity to grieve just like everybody else. They are members of that community and this affects them as it would affect anyone else in our police department and how this tragedy would completely devastate that agency and our agency if it happened here in Levelland.
“They deserve an opportunity to grieve and mourn and slow down and have take a break from every day calls for service,” Garcia continued.
He said while the community of Uvalde is devastated by the events that occurred Tuesday, it doesn’t stop the criminal element and the need for police assistance.
“Realistically, even though this is a major incident and it’s been a tragic incident, it doesn’t mean that every day police work stops,” Garcia said. “The criminal element still exists and they are still going out there and causing trouble. There are still calls for service to be made and that’s what we’re going to do for them. We’re going to make sure they get caught up and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we’re helping their officers stay safe and whatever else they need us to do.”
The officers who volunteered to travel to Uvalde to assist those officers included: Rocio Gameros, Dakota Moody, Rusty Fuentes, Victor Feregrino, Ivan Baeza and Cory Foley.
The police department hosted a prayer service for the officers with the community Friday at the Law Enforcement Center and Garcia said he hopes community members will remember these officers in their prayers over the next few days.
“I’m asking for prayers for their safe travels, prayers for the community of Uvalde and prayers that our guys return home safely,” Garcia said.
The officers will travel with their patrol units and team up with Uvalde officers upon their arrival.
“I’m so thankful that we have a city council and city administration who agree and support this decision,” Garcia said.