Writer recalls friendship with slain officer

Officer Kenneth Copeland

Editor’s note: Ros Hill writes a blog, and he has a book coming out in January. His writing has also appeared on the Opinion page of the San Marcos Daily Record.

It’s 7:30 p.m. and dark.

You sit in your car in the grocery store parking lot and stare at the side of the building, as the tears well in your eyes. Cars and shoppers pass by, but nothing steals your attention.

Earlier in the day, you had a friend take a photo of yourself, standing by two large garbage dumpsters at your town’s Activity Center. In your hands were a pair of running shoes — the same running shoes you had written a story about in your previous blog titled, Wonder. This photo was to accompany a follow-up story about finding your shoes — to tell your readers about how they had spent the last two weeks on the feet of a college student in Wharton, Texas. About how the kid doesn’t even prefer running shoes, but much prefers boots. After all, he’s going to school to be a certified welder. You were going to tell the story about how you had left your shoes out by those dumpsters to dry in the sun after your morning run. About how you had driven off and left them behind, only to be found by a man who would later give them to the kid from Wharton, who, just happened to be visiting the Activity Center that day.

And through a series of odd events and coincidental conversations, someone would recall the details of your description of your lost shoes, and surface with the answer of their whereabouts.

And then, today, your shoes arrived. And you were all prepared to write a sequel to Wonder.

But, then, the details of that story became completely insignificant, as did the photo.

Because today, a friend of yours was killed in the line of duty.

I’ll wonder about Ken Copeland for a long, long time. I’ll wonder about his wife and kids, but mostly his son, Nile, who I strength train, and is, for the most part, confined to a wheelchair with spina bifida. I’ll forever think back on Ken’s last words to me: “Ros, Nile loves you. You’re the best with him.” And how can I not stop thinking about his son, when you know fully well that “the best with him” will never be there to rub his hair for one last time? How can I not think about Ken as he would marvel with Nile and his pet tarantula that has turned a slight hint of blue?

Four years ago, I met Ken for the first time when he was working routine security during my daughter’s high school basketball game. The instant I saw his smile…that instant…I knew this guy had it — the gift. He could lighten up any room with just his smile. For 90 minutes, I stood with him at the end of the basketball court, and we talked like buddies who’d been separated for years. The conversation flowed and never dipped into boredom. I drilled him with endless questions about his experiences as a police officer, and he answered them as candidly as I never expected. I just let him run with the stories. And why not? I mean, he was the model of sincerity. Of committed fatherhood. Of being just a great, great guy.

And so I parked my car outside the grocery store tonight and stared at the side of the building. I needed a place to stop and let my eyes pour. That’s where I started writing this story. It’s where emotion was riding heavily on my shoulders at each tap of the keyboard. It’s where I found myself wondering about the fragility of life and the cruelty that can harbor within it.

So much travels through your mind when you suddenly lose a friend. So much emotion sweeps through you, that it becomes nearly impossible to handle. But you aren’t his family, and that thought alone — thinking of them — just levels you. And you aren’t Nile, and the helplessness just eats away at you because you don’t even know how to begin to offer your sympathy. The kid’s rock was taken away from him, and all of us — to be forever missed.

Goodbye, Ken Copeland. I’ll never stop wondering about you.

After all, you are a wonder.

San Marcos Daily Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666