UPDATE: Remembering Chattanooga Police Sgt. Tim Chapin 5 years later
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
UPDATE: It was a somber day for the Chattanooga Police Department. It's been five years since officers lost one of their own. Saturday our local heroes in blue paused to remember Sergeant Tim Chapin's service and sacrifice.
A tall cup of Starbucks coffee and a breakfast pastry serve as a memorial for fallen Sergeant James "Tim" Chapin. His usual table sat empty Saturday morning in his honor. “Always going to be the empty seat, birthdays, holidays and the anniversary rolls around. The family is taking it tough today,”said former Assistant Police Chief, Tim Carroll.
In 2011 Chapin was shot and killed by Jesse Mathews outside a Brainerd Road pawn shop. Tim Carroll served as assistant chief at the time. He says he remembers the moment he first heard about the shooting. “A brief minute I didn't know what to do. I wasn't expecting it. I hate to see any officer. I knew Tim because he was my former brother in law. That made it tough.”
Even after five years, Carroll still thinks about Chapin every day. Every time he passes the cemetery, memories come flashing back. “Two blue lines that mark the spot where they parked the police motorcycle. So every time I cross that, I always think of him.”
He says the day Chapin took his last call reminds him of September 11th. He says it felt like the world stopped. “I went home that morning, I had the police radio on and there wasn't a call. Nothing, almost like 9-11 how we didn't see planes. It was like leave the police alone right now; they don't need anything else to do.”
Five years later he says he knows Chapin is proud of the department. Of all the officers' hard work and the service they provide - protecting our city. “I know he is watching over everybody. It was a tough day for his family, officers with him, the police department, law enforcement, and our whole community.”
Chapin left behind a wife and two children. A stretch of I-24 is named in his honor along with a local scholarship.
PREVIOUS STORY: Saturday marks five years since Chattanooga Police Sgt. Tim Chapin, 51, was shot and killed in the line of duty.
Starbucks in Brainerd honoring fallen officer SGT Tim Chapin today, the Starbucks were he would start his day pic.twitter.com/KkT8CG639O
Chapin was killed by an armed robber, Jesse Mathews, now 29, in a shootout behind a pawn shop on Brainerd Road.
"At first I thought they were waiting on another ambulance because they were talking to Tim," Carroll remembered after arriving to the scene. "After that, I just felt absolutely helpless."
Five years later, the scene, once littered with shell casings, is now marked by flowers and a blue ribbon.
"When his name was said that he was the one that was killed, it was just disbelief," recalled Sgt. Danny Jones.
When Jones was a new police officer, Chapin was his supervisor. They quickly became good friends and golfing buddies.
"He was just so dependable," Jones said. "It was no doubt that if you called Tim, he would've been there."
Chapin was sitting at the Starbucks on Brainerd Road when he got that final call. On Thursday, his usual table sat empty in his honor -- his usual tall coffee and morning bun sitting on the tabletop.
"He was so engrained in part of my day," barista Tabitha Vandergriff remembered.
She said Chapin was a man of routine. His patrol car pulled up to the coffee shop every morning --
7 a.m. on the dot.
"It was always that tall coffee and something sweet. He had a sweet tooth!" she laughed.
Vandergriff was off work on the morning Chapin was killed. A co-worker called to break the news. She still gets choked up thinking about it.
"When you know someone that's that tenderhearted, and just loves people like that, it takes your breath away," Vandergriff said, fighting back tears.
Although that morning seems to stand still in time, Chapin's legacy lives on.
"I think everyone's trying to put the horrible day behind them," said Carroll, "and just remember Tim the good guy that he was."
Chapin left behind a wife and two children. A stretch of I-24 is named in his honor, along with a local scholarship.
Mathews, Chapin's convicted killer, is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at Riverbend, a maximum security prison in Nashville. Mathews' family is also serving time for charges surrounding the murder.