DENVER – Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley was a devout Catholic, a former IT professional who became a police officer after the death of a friend, a kind and funny man who loved board games, loved helping solve other people’s problems, flying drones, and Star Wars. And above all, Talley was a loving son, husband and father to seven children who was their “unsung hero,” those who knew him said at a memorial service Tuesday in Boulder.
Family members were joined by thousands of police officers, firefighters and paramedics from across the region, people from the community and others Tuesday to honor Talley in a procession and memorial service at Flatirons Community Church in Boulder eight days after he was shot and killed at King Soopers in Boulder.
Talley was the first officer to respond to the shooting last Monday and died “heroically” protecting others, Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold and others said. Nine civilians were killed at the store, along with Talley. A suspect has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder in the shooting.
A funeral Mass was held for Talley on Monday at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver. During Tuesday’s service, Reverend Daniel Nolan, FSSP, of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, said Talley would not have wanted Tuesday’s service to proceed had he not had the Mass on Monday first.
“His faith was first and foremost. Primary. He was an officer, a husband, a father,” Nolan said. “But at his core, he was a Catholic. He believed it to the core of his being. It was his deeply-held beliefs that enabled him to do what he did, to lay down his life for another, even though those friends were ones he never met.”
Nolan said that the service was for Talley’s friends and family, along with all of the hundreds of law enforcement in attendance.
“Everyone in that store was trying to get out, but some were trying to get in. It was all of you – officers, lawmen, law enforcement – going into the mouth of hell. And one did not return. This is for you,” he said. “This is a risk every day you put on your badges. Officer Talley put on his badge, put on his uniform not knowing that would be the last time. That’s a frightening prospect for every officer, every day. May your fears, may your trepidations be allayed knowing your sacrifices will not be taken for granted.”
Nolan went on to discuss the power it took for Talley to sacrifice his life for others, saying it meant there was an idea, a principle, a character in the soul worth dying for.
“It’s a message that the world does not hear very often, does not see very often. He believed in something so strongly, he was willing to die for it,” Nolan said. “I would argue Officer Talley’s life was not taken; it was given. He gave it. And it was love that enabled Officer Talley to do this. He loved his fellow man. It was because he loved his family, he loved our Lord.”
Nolan read a poem written by Talley’s seven children for him on Christmas 2019 called “Our Unsung Hero,” which reads in part, “Dad, our unsung hero, Who guards and guides our way, We love you, and we thank you On this Christmas Day. May the Angels watch over you And guard you on your way. May God bless and protect you And bring you home each day.”
Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said Talley’s top trait was optimism and said “everyone who knew” him knew about his optimism for the future. She remembered him as a dedicated police officer who loved his chance to be a drone operator, loved his family, and never complained about his job with the department – which he took after a career in information technology at age 41 following the death of a close friend.
Herold said she has received an outpouring of support from community members who had interactions with Officer Talley over the years and described how compassionate he was when it came to interacting with people in crisis, missing persons cases, and saving a family of ducks, among many other calls.
Talley was energetic, a black belt in karate and loved board games immensely, Chief Herold, a fellow officer and friend of his said. He had more than 450 board and card games that he loved to share with his family, friends and fellow officers. He was also fond of telling others how much better the Star Wars franchise is than that of Star Trek, they laughed.
Herold and a fellow officer recalled giving Talley’s son a lifesaving award for helping save his brother and spoke to his several children, saying their father was kind and “died a hero.”
“There is no doubt, because of his bravery and quick action, dozens of lives were saved,” she said. “I hope this brings solace to you all in the years ahead.”
“Eric’s life meant something. He was everything I think about when I think about excellence in policing. Eric was kind. Eric was brave. And in the end, willing to die to save others,” Herold added. “The Boulder Police Department will never forget Eric or his sacrifice.”
Boulder Police Sgt. Adrian Drelles, who was Talley’s direct supervisor and friend, said Talley would have wanted others recognized before himself. He told Talley’s wife, Leah Talley, that she was the love of Eric’s life, his rock and what kept him grounded every day.
“To the kids, all seven of you, hold your heads high. I see your dad’s compassion and kindness in each of you. He is a hero. He lived his life through God to be a role model to you,” Drelles said. “…Your police family will always be here to support and love you.”
He also spoke to Talley’s parents and to the other victims of the shooting, telling them he promised that the police department and investigators would “continue to work around the clock to bring you justice.”
Drelles thanked Boulder police officers, dispatchers and other first responders, as well as those from other area agencies who have been so supportive of BPD since the day of the shooting.
He remembered Talley as a man of great character who left his mark because of the life he lived. He said Talley was a talkaholic but also extremely hard-working, who was enthusiastic about his life and job and wanted to share that vibrancy with the world.
And Drelles commended Talley’s work on the day on which he died, saying that from the time that Talley first confronted the suspect, no other civilians were hurt at the King Soopers.
“Eric died a hero, giving his all to save others. He was with his brothers in blue. Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world,” he said. “…Eric, I am honored to work by your side. You were a great officer, friend, husband. You’re probably rolling your eyes as I speak. … We have your back and we’ll continue to work where you left off.”
Talley’s close friend, Chris Turner, told the service that Talley was always searching for new and fun games to play, and along with that passion for games, he also cherished his other hobbies, including being a drone operator. But Turner said that those hobbies “were a conduit to make new friends and spend time with those he cared for.”
Turner said Talley “gave 100% of himself to every friendship” and was always among the first to respond to help people with computers, moving, tracking down livestock – anything.
He said that Talley greatly cherished trips and camps with his family and gave dedicated time to his children for activities.
“There was nothing on earth more important to Eric than his family,” Turner said. “He had this ability to have people feel better about themselves.”
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said he wished he had known Talley after all he has heard over the past week of his character and commitment to his family and community. The governor said that Coloradans will never forget him.
“For those he knew well, it’s going to be the quiet moments, and the feeling that the world might have moved on,” Polis said. “But those who loved him most will never be alone. We will never forget the sacrifices that he made and the sacrifices your family has made. I speak for the entire state of Colorado when I say we are here for you.”
A montage of photos of Talley and his family and friends played under country music to honor his memory with them.
And at the end of the ceremony, Chief Herold was presented an American flag that was draped over Talley’s casket, who then presented it in turn to Officer Talley’s family to honor and remember him. Talley was also honored with a 21-gun salute, the playing of TAPS, and a final call:
“Officer Eric Talley, you brought hope and light where there was despair and darkness. You sewed joy into the throes of sadness. On March 22, at 14:30 hours, you ran to confront people not only because you wore our badge with honor, but because you wore the armor of God with courage. As a son, husband, father and officer, you upheld justice, loved kindness, and walked humbly with our God. … Final hail for 295, Officer Eric Talley. End of watch, March 22, 2021, at 20:09 hours. 295, you are released for end of watch. Well done, good and faithful servant. We have the watch from here.”
Denver7's Ryan Osborne contributed to this report.