KayLeigh Nava was a little 9-year-old girl when her father, Fort Worth police Officer Henry “Hank” Nava, was killed.
Now, she’s becoming an elementary schoolteacher. And she has a message for late Officer Garrett Hull’s two little girls.
“It breaks my heart — I know that family is going through what mine did,” said Nava, 22, talking Saturday as Fort Worth grieved for Hull’s death.
“Daddy is every little girl’s hero. I’m sure his little girls feel just the same way about their dad that I did about mine.”
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Henry Nava was shot and killed serving a warrant. That was in 2005.
In May, KayLeigh Nava graduated from Texas Christian University.
“I’d tell his girls that as a child, we don’t get a say-so in our parents’ careers,” she said.
“We don’t get a say how our daddies fight to save other people’s lives — but sometimes they can’t save their own.”
At the hospital in 2005, as her father lay dying, she wrote a heart-rending letter to his killer: “You are going down and my dad is going to Heaven.”
Since then, she and her brother, Justin, and their mother, Teresa, have hosted 5K runs and blood drives to help survivors in other police families. Justin, now, 17, changed his name to Henry.
I wasn’t sure whether KayLeigh Nava would want to talk Saturday. She choked up a couple of times. So did I.
“Sometimes I don’t want to think about it,” she said.
“I’ve been working through the grief for a while. Honestly, I’m still working through it.”
But she offered this advice for the Hull girls: “You get to keep the memories of your dad — nobody can ever take those away,” she said.
“I can tell already that a lot of people know and respected Officer Hull. My advice to his girls is to gather those memories.””
She said the Hulls, like the Navas, will get plenty of help from another family: the “blue” family of police.
“A police officer taught me how to drive,” she said: “Officers always took me to the daddy-daughter dances.
“We’re still part of the Fort Worth police family. They’ve helped, and they continue to help.”
Children of a fallen officer are allowed to attend any state university. But Nava grew up going to TCU games, and her father had hoped to work there for the tuition discount.
Instead, the private university granted her a full scholarship.
“It’s great of TCU — and I also think of it as another little gift from my dad,” she said.
She’s attending graduate school and studying early childhood education.
“I love, love, love kids,” she said.
“I have a heart for them, and for the pureness of a child. My teachers always played a huge role.”
We also talked about some of the other heartbreaking deaths lately involving local police.
Convicted murderer Roy “Woody” Oliver was working as a Balch Springs officer, but grew up in south Fort Worth. Officer Amber Guyger, accused in connection with a Dallas church songleader’s death, was off-duty from the force there but grew up in east Arlington.
“It’s very hard,” she said.
“I’m a millennial, and I’m supposed to think a certain way. But it’s hard to see anyone bash on police — when you see someone say how terrible they are, that hurts the good officers.
“Not that some don’t deserve that harshness,” she said. “There are some corrupt police.
“But people only see those officers. No one sees the officer who taught me how to drive. No one sees the officer who took me to the daddy-daughter dance.
“No one sees all the good things they do.”
It’s time to tell all the good things about Officer Garrett Hull, and to help two more little girls.