'Heart of a Servant': Jaime Padron

Thousands mourn slain officer

Art Acevedo praises Padron, seen in photo flanked by his daughters
Art Acevedo praises Padron, seen in photo flanked by his daughters (Photo by Deborah Cannon, Austin American-Statesman)

Austin Police Officer Rahim Kidd breathed deeply and choked back tears as he unfolded a piece of paper containing notes for the eulogy he delivered today in remembrance of his good friend, APD Officer Jaime Padron, who was fatally shot in the line of duty on Good Friday.

"I can't talk about Jaime without smiling; Jaime had a big, bright smile," Kidd recalled. His friend was a Marine who spent 14 years serving as a San Angelo officer before coming to Austin in 2008. Padron was always optimistic and doted on his family; he loved to talk with Kidd, over a cup – or two – of Dunkin' Donuts coffee, about his two daughters (6 and 10), police work, politics and being a Marine. He was the kind of man who "made you want to be a better person," Kidd recalled. "He was very trusting, very caring, very giving," he continued. Taken together, along with a "good upbringing," made for a man Kidd said he was "proud to call a friend, partner, and brother. Jaime will be with me always."

Kidd was among nearly 5,000 people, including thousands of uniformed law enforcement officers from Austin and across the state, who gathered at Shoreline Church in North Austin Wednesday morning to honor Padron, the first APD officer fatally shot in the line of duty since 1978. Padron was killed at a North Austin Wal-Mart early on April 6, as he tried to detain a shoplifting suspect, 24-year-old Brandon Montgomery Daniel. According to an arrest affidavit, Padron got to the store just before 2:30am; when he tried to stop Daniel near the front door for questioning, Daniel tried to push past Padron and flee. The two fell to the ground, and Daniel pulled out a .380 pistol, fatally shooting Padron in the neck.

Two Wal-Mart employees, Lincoln LeMere and Archie Jordy, wrestled Daniel to the ground and used Padron's radio to call for help. In the struggle, Daniel fired off a round that LeMere and Jordy said they believed was meant for them. Neither was injured. Padron was pronounced dead at the scene and Daniel was taken into custody. According to the arrest affidavit, Daniel told detectives that he knew he'd killed Padron. He has been charged with capital murder, a death-eligible offense, and remains in custody.

The death of the well-liked and respected Padron – the first officer killed in the line of duty since Amy Donovan was struck and killed by a police cruiser during a foot pursuit in 2004 – stunned the department. Officers standing in formation and at attention after the church service wept as Chief Art Acevedo presented each of Padron's daughters with an American flag that had been draped on their father's coffin.

During the service, Acevedo praised Padron as a "prince" and a "treasure." He knew Padron personally, he said, which wasn't hard because the 40-year-old "stood out" in a crowd. He had the "heart of a servant; that's what made him special." Acevedo said that when the phone rang before dawn on Friday morning he knew it was not good news. "In this business, when the phone rings in the middle of the night, it's never Avon calling; it's always bad news." He said he was told that LeMere and Jordy – each of whom knew Padron as an officer who patrolled the area of the city near the Parmer Lane Wal-Mart – tried to revive Padron, encouraging him to hang on, to "wake up" and "stay here." Acevedo praised them for their selfless actions to subdue Daniel and to attend to Padron. Their immediate action is a "silver lining" to an otherwise sad situation.

While there is a community of "10 critics" in Austin who "say the same thing every time a police officer" defends him- or herself – that it's "never the suspect's fault" – Acevedo said APD was reminded that the critics do not represent the majority of the community it is sworn to protect. Calling the two employees up to the stage, Acevedo said "this is who we come to work for every day." (Wal-Mart has donated $50,000 to Padron's daughters and an additional $25,000 to the APD, which Acevedo said will be used to fund APD's youth programs. "Because Jaime would have wanted that – that is in Jaime's honor," he said.)

Addressing the thousands of mourners, Mayor Lee Leffingwell also expressed admiration for Padron, who he said was selfless and dedicated to the service of others. Padron was a "son, brother, father; he was a Marine, but he was a man of peace," Leffingwell said. "What he stood for and what he embodied is what the city of Austin will always insists upon in its police department."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Police, Cops, Jaime Padron, Art Acevedo, police shooting, Austin Police Department, APD, funeral, Brandon Daniel, Lee Leffingwell

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