Within hours of his death on Friday, a memorial that gave people a touchstone to connect with a fallen undercover officer was put into place at the Fort Worth Police Administration building.
Three flags stood at half staff and a patrol vehicle decorated with white flowers had been set apart from the rest of the building’s parking lot to honor Fort Worth Police Officer Garrett Hull, who died at John Peter Smith Hospital Friday.
A visibly shaken Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald made the announcement during a hastily called news conference broadcast from the hospital on Facebook Live.
“We’ve lost a true hero, someone that has dedicated more than one tour of service to this great city and was senselessly killed by three known criminals, two of which are in custody now,” Fitzgerald said.
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Those attending the 6 p.m. vigil said they hated the reason for the ceremony but they also said their spirits were buoyed by the gathering. It felt as though they were with family, some said.
“Being that my husband is an officer, I love the community support,” said Karen Ramirez, Assistant Chief Charles Ramirez’s wife. “A lot of people did not know this officer personally, but they are here. This city loves the police and I love that.”
Hull was shot in the head earlier on Friday as he pursued three men suspected of committing multiple robberies of mostly Hispanic-themed bars. His fellow officers killed the gunman while loading Hull into a patrol car and taking him to JPS.
Hull, an undercover officer with the intelligence unit, died at 9:40 p.m., according to the police department. Those attending Saturday’s vigil had the opportunity to sign a giant blue card that memorialized their support for the department and Hull’s wife and two children.
“He was with family, friends and fellow officers. Please continue to pray for his family and those that need it in this tragic time,” the department said in a Facebook post.
Fitzgerald said he had received condolences nationwide expressing sympathy for the department, for the city and for Hull’s family.
Fiztgerald said Hull’s family had been incredibly strong during this ordeal.
“There’s not a dry eye in this house,” he said. “Our whole department is hurting right now. We’ve received messages throughout this country not just from the North Texas community in support of police officer Hull and his family.”
Officers returned fire, killing one of the suspects during a brief pursuit that ended blocks away from Los Vaqueros sports bar at 403 W. Biddison St., where the robbery began. Two suspects were apprehended by police and were being questioned Friday while Hull was clinging to life. The suspected gunman, Dacion Steptoe, was killed on the scene, Fitzgerald said Friday.
Samuel Mayfield, 23, and Timothy Huff, 33, were charged Saturday with capital murder. They are facing 10 counts of aggravated robbery because 10 patrons of the Los Vaqueros sports bar were inside when the suspects attempted to rob the establishment, according to Lt. Chris Britt.
Another police officer was near Hull when shots were fired, which accounts for their counts of attempted capital murder, Britt said. Huff and Mayfield were questioned about their possible involvement in as many as 15 robberies, Britt said.
Jail records did not indicate where the suspects were from or whether bond has been set, and police did not immediately reply to questions.
No other Fort Worth officer has died in the line of duty since Dwayne Freeto was struck and killed by a drunk driver in 2006.
On Saturday morning, about a dozen police attended a previously planned “Breakfast With Citizens on Patrol” event at the Culinary Schools of Forth Worth’s Camp Bowie Boulevard location.
A police supervisor said it was too soon for officers to begin talking about Hull, and said they were “just trying to put on a brave face for this event.”
The supervisor said that Hull’s funeral was being planned Saturday, with the family making decisions related to organ donation.