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'Heaven has gained a mighty guardian' | Friends, training officer reflect on memories of fallen St. Louis officer

Officer Tamarris Bohannon, 29, was fatally shot while responding to a call for a shooting Saturday

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Officer Tamarris Bohannon was late on his first day at the St. Louis Police Academy.

But, in that moment, he shared one of his greatest character traits: he owned it, according to his fellow recruit, Officer Benjamin Cehic.

“It’s a fleeting character trait, the fact that if you make a mistake, you take responsibility for it, and that’s who he was,” said Cehic, now a St. Louis County police officer. “He never sat there and put it on anybody else.”

Bohannon sat down next to Cehic that day, and Cehic let him have it.

“He said, ‘Listen man, you got kids?’” Cehic recalled.

Credit: Provided Photo

Memories like that are holding Cehic and others who knew and worked with Bohannon together ever since he was shot to death while responding to a call in the Tower Grove neighborhood Saturday. He was 29 years old. He is survived by his wife and their three children, two sons and a daughter. All younger than 10.

RELATED: 'He will be deeply missed' | St. Louis police officer shot in head Saturday dies from his injuries

That’s where Officer Dustin Hoskins’ mind went the moment he found out his academy classmate and first partner had died.

“I have two young children as well,” said Hoskins, now a Maplewood officer, as tears welled in his eyes. “And just envisioning them not being able to be around their father…It’s hard.”

“I think what people don't realize is police officers are just like everyone else. We have families. We have responsibilities we have to take care of at home. And I think that's the biggest disconnect that’s not shown in the media is that we're human. We're parents we’re husbands or wives we’re just like the next person. So it doesn't stop when we walk into work and put the uniform on.”

Hoskins, too, is turning to his happier memories to get through the dark moments.

He remembers Bohannon telling everyone in the academy class that he grew up in St. Louis, graduated from Oakville High School, and wanted to serve his city.

He captured some of them in pictures — like the time they found a hall pass at a St. Louis school where they were mentoring students. Their lieutenant also thought the experience would help them with their public speaking skills. The hall pass had a picture of a young Cardi B striking a sassy pose with the words, “Ms. Asher said I can leave the classroom.”

“We found it so hilarious,” Hoskins said.

Credit: Provided photo

And there’s the time Hoskins snapped a selfie and sent it to his fellow recruits, pretending he and Bohannon were patrolling on their own weeks before they were supposed to.

“I kind of told them, ‘All right guys, we’re doing it by ourselves, to make them jealous, but they knew better than that because we have to have a certain number of weeks of field training first,” he said.

Credit: Provided photo

In the backseat that day was Officer Cedric Hendrix, keeping an ever-watchful eye on his recruits.

But it gave him a front-row seat to their skills.

And Bohannon had a gift, said the recently retired 25-year veteran.

“We play a little game in the car that I like to call, ‘I'm not here,’ when you get an assignment you handle the assignment and if you need anything, I'll be there,” Hendrix said. “I've seen accident scenes and whatnot, where he's offered comfort to somebody who's just wrecked his car and is really distraught and he would speak to them in such a way where you could tell that he was putting them at ease.

“He had people laughing, which is not the easiest thing on earth to do in a situation like that.”

Oftentimes on shift, Bohannon would pause to check in with his family, especially his kids, Hendrix said.

To Hendrix, Bohannon was like a son — just like the other officers he’s trained through the years.

“Probationary officers would call me their ‘cop dad,’ and that kind of caught on,” he said. “So when you pick up the phone, you say, ‘What is it, son. OK, here's what you need to do.’”

Hendrix took to Facebook to express his thoughts on Bohannon’s death.

It read, in part, “He treated strangers like family when he could. And after being released from training, he came to me for advice when he needed it. But those calls tapered off quickly. You got it. And you can handle it. He was my son, even though there was no biology involved. I loved him, and I'll miss him terribly. Heaven has gained a mighty guardian.”

A part of Hendrix feels guilt over Bohannon’s death.

“You put them out there on the street, you let them call you to ask questions and you want to believe because you train them that they're invincible and nothing's going to happen to them, but unfortunately, that's just not accurate,” he said. “Part of it is a little bit of survivor’s guilt.

“How did I get through 25 years of this with what I would call a collection of dents and dings, and here, he's just barely getting started and it's over, his watch has ended. It's horrifying.”

Hendrix felt like a proud father when he heard Bohannon had recently been selected to start training recruits, too.

“I viewed him as the next generation of the quintessential police officer,” he said. “He was educated, intelligent, and most importantly, empathetic.

“He took the time to feel what everyone else was feeling before he made a decision. It wasn't a question of, ‘I'm here and I'm right.’ He wanted to get the bigger picture, which is what we definitely need in this day in age in law enforcement.”

And Bohannon owned it.

________________

The BackStoppers said it is helping Bohannon's family.

Assistance from the organization is immediate and ongoing, the statement said. Upon the death of a police officer, firefighter, publicly-funded paramedic or EMT, his or her family receives a check for $10,000 from The BackStoppers with assurance of further help.

For more information and to donate, click here.