Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Eugene, Oregon, USA
Officer Chris Kilcullen
Chris Kilcullen switched to riding motorcycles so he could spend more time with his 4-year-old daughter, Katie. When he was offduty, the Eugene police officer took her everywhere. The motorcycle beat meant day shifts, and four-day weeks.
Kilcullen’s father worried about his son taking that gig, he said on Saturday, because a cop on a motorcycle is more vulnerable to getting hurt in a crash.
“I never worried about some woman, somebody pulling out a gun and shooting him at a car stop,” John Kilcullen said. “The last thing I ever gave any thought to was of him being shot. He was just too nice of a guy.”
Chris Kilcullen’s fellow officers spent Saturday in mourning, remembering a man who took “nice guy” to the extreme both on and off the job, the day after the officer was gunned down during a high-speed chase Friday afternoon.
Officials released few new details about the incident, except to announce that the suspected shooter, 56-year-old Cheryl D. Kidd of Springfield, was charged with aggravated murder and remained in the Lane County Jail, without bail. Kidd is the alleged driver of a Buick Skylark that failed to yield in a traffic stop at 4:30 p.m. Friday, say police, and after Kilcullen cornered the vehicle at a traffic light, the driver fired at least one shot from a handgun. Police say he did not have the chance to draw his weapon or return fire.
Kilcullen, a traffic enforcement officer, was known for handing out copious tickets, said his boss, Sgt. Derel Schulz. But he also was known for handling those tense situations with such professionalism that the people he cited would often call the police department afterward to sing his praises.
“It was extraordinary, how many people called in who were on the receiving end of a citation,” Schulz said.
If it’s hard to imagine a police officer you’d thank after giving you a ticket, say Kilcullen’s colleagues and family, you didn’t know the 12-year veteran of the force, who racked up more than 85 commendations during his tenure.
“I’ve seen him arrest bad guys who treated him like dirt, and I saw him respond to them by treating them like true gentlemen,” said Lt. Doug Mozan, at an afternoon news conference. “He treated people who basically didn’t value him as a human as if they were a member of his whole family.”
Added officer Jim McBride:
“If you were to rank (Eugene Police Department) officers from the nicest guys down, Chris Kilcullen was No. 1. She got our best.”
Off duty, Kilcullen seemed to spend every waking moment either at a volunteer event or with his family, Schulz said.
“His family was his whole life,” Schulz said.
Kilcullen, who was born and raised in Eugene and earned a sociology and psychology degree from the University of Oregon, left behind a wife, Kristie, their daughter, Katie, and Kristie’s daughter from a previous marriage, 11-year-old Sidney, whom he took to as if she were his own child, said the officer’s father. Kilcullen was especially close with Katie, who happily tagged along with him all over town, as he picked up supplies for building beehives or a two-story playhouse for his girls.
“He was always running around with her,” John Kilcullen said. “She just loved it. She loved her papa. Her daddy.”
Kilcullen never hesitated to try a new thing, his father said, and he often turned that into a way to help people. After he learned to scuba dive, he signed up as a volunteer to clean tanks at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. He routinely volunteered at Relay For Life charity events, and at police-sponsored functions to install car seats in automobiles.
“He would regularly hit my office up for a donation to help buy car seats,” said his father, a Eugene attorney and former Lane County Sheriff’s deputy.
The sad irony of Friday’s tragedy is that Kilcullen was a master negotiator, said Schulz, one of the top members of the city’s crisis negotiation team. He left the squad only because his job as a traffic cop required a conflicting time commitment, and because the training required for crisis negotiations was eating into his family time.
“But I don’t think you’ll talk to any of his supervisors from that team that would say they’d seen anybody better than Chris in that discipline,” Schulz said.
In other words, if there was anyone to talk a gunman down, it would have been Chris, and when police finally caught up with his shooter, it was the crisis negotiations unit that persuaded her to give up.
“Had Chris been alive, he would have been one of the first people there to make that happen,” Schulz said.
Friday’s shooting has left Kilcullen’s family and his colleagues in shock, and grief.
“My number one priority yesterday was to make sure Chris’ family was taken care of, that all the notifications had been made,” Schulz said. “My time for grieving will come later. But it goes without saying how deeply affected everyone is. It’s a reminder to us all that life is precious, and it can end at any moment.”
The community expressed support Saturday in any way it could. By evening, nearly 2,300 people had joined a Facebook fan page titled “RIP Eugene Police Officer Chris Kilcullen,” and many of the dozens who left comments on the wall had replaced their profile photos with a blue stripe through a black box: the international symbol for a fallen officer.
One woman who posted on Kilcullen’s wall wrote that she heard the shooting on Friday.
“I was playing outside my house with my kids as I heard three gun shots,” wrote Amanda Vaughn. “I had ran down to the stop light and seen many people trying to help him, as we all tried to do what we could do until paramedics arrived … it was a very sad day for myself having to see that, he was one of the nicest, caring guys you will ever meet. He always brought a smile to my children’s face every time we would see him and he would give them a sticker.”
The wall was bombarded with similar sentiment.
“My almost three year old and I recently saw Officer Kilcullen downtown,” wrote Christi Ridge-White. “My son was admiring his motorbike and Officer Kilcullen went out of his way to talk with my son, listening with great interest as my son explained how his daddy also rides a motorbike, he then gave him some stickers that my son wore proudly for days. It was such a kind simple gesture that meant a lot to a little boy.”
Gresham Police officer John Herrera addressed his comment directly to the fallen officer.
“Chris, you covered my brother-in-law, Eugene officer Bryan Caudle, on a traffic stop, just an hour before your fatal encounter,” he wrote. “I wanted to thank you for watching out for him, as I am sure you did this many times before. I wanted to tell you thank you.”
At 8 p.m., people swarmed to the plaza outside Eugene’s city hall by the hundreds for a candlelight vigil, attended by the city’s police chief and its mayor. They wrote on poster boards erected on easels with photographs of the slain officer. One of the notes was unsigned, and it simply read:
“He was the best.”