On Wednesday, May 22, Tatum Raetz graduated from kindergarten. Three days earlier, her father, Phoenix police officer Daryl Raetz, was killed in the line of duty in a hit-and-run car crash.
In a touching and utterly inspiring move, nearly 400 police officers from precincts all over the city gathered in the small school auditorium to show support for Tatum, her mother Stephanie, and her father, Daryl.
Officer James Holmes shared the experience of the Phoenix Police Department family by stating "She had 300, 400 parents up here for her this morning … It was absolutely amazing. It was bittersweet and it was a bit overwhelming for all of us."
"We tried to keep this small," Holmes continued. "We tried to keep this to Daryl's squad and his precinct … But the word got out that this was happening and it went viral within the department and there was absolutely no way that you could keep officers who could be here away from here. They came, even with their families."
In a wash of blue and black uniforms, police officers stood in line clapping, smiling and congratulating Tatum and her mother and they walked together into her graduation ceremony. Many of these officers didn't even know Officer Raetz personally. Raetz's sergeant, Ben Kartchner, described the tightly knit family ties within the police department. "There's nothing I can say about Daryl that's not evident by the number of people who have shown up today to show that support," Sgt. Kartchner stated. "The most important thing to remember is he's left a precious child and wife and it's our responsibility to make sure they're taken care of for the rest of their lives ..."
With a final show of love and support, these 400 officers will join countless others at the funeral of Officer Raetz later on this week.