BOULDER, Colo., (CBS4) – Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley was among the 10 people killed when a gunman opened fire at a King Soopers Monday afternoon.
The 51-year-old father of seven was the first to respond to the scene at the grocery store on Table Mesa Drive. In a press conference Tuesday morning, Police Chief Maris Herold said responding officers, including Talley, immediately entered the store and engaged the suspect - soon exchanging gunfire. No other officers were injured.
"He cared about this community, he cared about Boulder Police Department, he cared about his family, and he was willing to die to protect others," Herold said.
Talley had been with the department since 2010. Before that, he worked an IT job, but made the decision to make a change at age 40.
"He started at the bottom and worked his way up," said father Homer Talley in an interview with CBS Evening News.
On Tuesday, Chief Herold called Talley a "kind man" who did not have to go into policing
"He had a profession before this, but he felt a higher calling," She said.
Edwin Hurwitz, a defense and immigration attorney who lives in Boulder, met Talley early on in his career with BPD.
At the time, Hurwitz, a professional musician, was making a career change of his own. For a class at the University of Colorado Law School, he went on a ride along with Talley.
"Officer Talley was telling me he just wanted to reach out to people directly and be involved and help people in a way that felt really concrete," Hurwitz said.
Because of his "left-leaning" upbringing and background as a traveling musician, Hurwitz said he had a natural skepticism of police officers at the time. That changed when he saw how the officer handled several calls involving homeless individuals.
Hurwitz said Talley was patient with them and understanding of their situations.
"Here was somebody who really believed in the mission that he had to keep people safe, and to keep the community safe, to protect us and to serve us," Hurwitz said. "He was someone who, because he came into it earlier in life had really considered everything about what it means to be a police officer."
Talley was a father of seven children, ranging from 5 years old to 18. His father described him as the kind of dad who taught all his kids the Heimlich maneuver to the CBS Evening news.
According to Herold, one of his sons was even presented a lifesaving award two weeks ago.
"One of his sons swallowed a quarter and because Officer Talley taught his children CPR, one of his son's was able to save the little boy's life," Talley said.
Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, President Joe Biden praised Talley's heroism.
"You know when he pinned on that badge yesterday morning, he didn't know what the day would bring," Biden said. "He thought he'd be coming home to his family and his seven children. When the moment to act came, Officer Talley did not hesitate in his duty, making the ultimate sacrifice in his effort to save lives. That's the definition of an American hero."
Gov. Jared Polis, U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse, Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver, and Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty also praised Talley's actions Tuesday morning.
Weaver called Talley a "truly heroic public servant."
"We cannot never thank Officer Talley or his family enough for their sacrifice, but we will not forget it," Weaver said. "Many are alive today because of the actions of Eric Talley and other first responders and their bravery is a blessing to us all."
Herold called Talley's death "tragic," and stressed how much he loved his community.
"He's everything that policing deserves and needs," She said.
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