(WBTV) - I've thought recently how Officers Clark and Shelton could have been sergeants by now. Perhaps they would have been working in a different division or in a different capacity at CMPD. Officer Clark's children have grown a decade.
I did not know these officers, but I knew people who loved them and have gotten to know members of their families over the years. My eyes have welled up several times the past week thinking about what was lost and how their loved ones were forced to forge a different path than they ever expected.
I remember turning on the TV late that night it happened. A special report came on about two officers being shot. Officer Bob Fey updated the media with a brief statement and I remember looking at his face, and knowing it was bad. I started to cry. It did not seem possible that this could happen again.
Our police department was so well-loved during those days and months that followed. In 2007, people couldn't just post their grief and condolences on social media, then go back to what they were doing. Citizens made cards and took cookies to police stations. They gave hugs. They stood outside to watch the funeral procession pass and pay respects.
I remember going back out to the Timber Ridge apartments for a report. In those first days, some neighbors drew a chalk outline of the officers in the parking lot. Perhaps it was done by children. It was artistic and respectful. It depicted their last moments. One officer beside the other, a unit.
That has stuck with me. It made me consider what the children witnessed. How they were woken up by gunshots and sirens. They saw some very disturbing images. How could they ever process all that through such young eyes? The chalk drawing washed away with the first rain, but memory of that night is permanent.
I met neighbors who struggled with living at the scene of that crime and being associated with it. Yet, it must be said -- many of them gave police a good description of the suspect. They testified in court and helped win the case with CMPD.
Officers worked through the night to gather every scrap of evidence and interview everyone possible to make sure their brothers got justice. They had to put their own shock, grief, and fear aside to get the job done.
I've learned just how much the families were affected by the years of news coverage. We covered every step of the process in-depth. It was a community story, but the families feared to see the killer's picture every time they turned on the TV or clicked around. Sensitivity matters. I can't change how things were reported back then, but I hope the families know as we reflect back on the anniversary it remains all about the service and sacrifice of Officer Sean Clark and Officer Jeff Shelton.