LAFAYETTE — Most people heard Eric Talley’s name for the first time on March 22, when Boulder’s police chief announced the officer had died in the line of duty as the first on the scene in response to the King Soopers shooting.
Officials have said in the days since that Talley's quick response saved dozens of other lives. But to his family, friends and fellow officers in the Boulder Police Department, Talley was an everyday hero who rescued a family of ducks from a storm drain, collected police memorabilia for a young boy in Denver fighting cancer who requested “police stuff” for Christmas, and hosted a barbecue at the department each Father’s Day for those who couldn’t celebrate with their families.
Talley, one of 10 people who died at the King Soopers near South Broadway and Table Mesa Drive, received a hero’s memorial service Tuesday at Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette.
“Becoming a hero is not something that happens overnight,” the Rev. Daniel Nolan of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel said during the service, adding that heroism happens with small sacrifices over time.
Sprays of roses as well as portraits and photos of Talley decorated the stage. Officers from dozens of public safety agencies attended, including from Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska.
Talley, 51, joined the Boulder Police Department in 2010. He was a founding member of the department’s unmanned aircraft systems unit.
He left a wife and seven children. A slideshow of family photos provided a glimpse into birthdays, Christmas mornings and everyday moments that made up the more private side of his life.
A law enforcement procession estimated by Boulder Police to be more than 500 vehicles, escorted Talley’s flag-draped casket from Thornton to the church in Lafayette, arriving about 10:30 a.m..
The Honor Guard that lined the church saluted as his casket passed, flanked by seven officers.
Gov. Jared Polis, Talley’s supervisor Sgt. Adrian Drelles, and family friend Chris Turner were among the service speakers. They described Talley as someone who would put others before himself, go out of his way to make someone’s day better, and cherished his family.
“When called into service to help others, [Talley] did so selflessly and without hesitation,” Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said. “There is no doubt because of his quick action dozens of other lives were saved. I hope this brings you solace in the years ahead.”
Those close to Talley said he gave himself wholeheartedly to everything he did, describing him as both fun-loving and competitive.
Drelles joked that Talley “had two speeds at work: talkaholic and honey badger. Eric was either talking everyone’s ear off or hard charging.”
Drelles said he once told Talley he could only call him 10 times per shift. Five minutes later, Drelles’ phone rang. It was Talley telling him he was going to use the bathroom.
Nolan read a poem Talley’s children wrote for him for Christmas in 2019, called “Our Unsung Hero.” Speaking directly to those children, Drelles told them he sees their father’s kindness and compassion in each of them.
Polis, a Boulder resident before becoming governor, said he didn't know Talley personally but, like many people, wanted to after learning more about the officer. Polis acknowledged the reality of a law enforcement career, noting how officers “know each day when they go to work that they may never be coming home for dinner” that night.
Nolan returned several times to Talley’s willingness to sacrifice his life, saying his deeply held faith — Talley was Catholic — “allowed him to do what he did.”
“I would argue that Officer Talley’s life was not taken. It was given,” Nolan said. “He gave it.”
Following the service, the flag draped over Talley’s casket was folded in silence, and a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace” capped the ceremony.