More than 2,000 people gathered Monday night at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton to remember a Newport News Police officer who was killed in the line of duty.
Katherine “Katie” Thyne was just 24 years old when she was killed during a traffic stop on Jan. 23.
The audience was silent and the memorial service lasted an hour and a half.
The church operations director said the capacity for the room was 2,900.
An hour before the service began, the parking lot near the church entrance was filled with rows of cars, including police cruisers.
Law enforcement agencies from Hampton Roads and officers from as far as Charleston, South Carolina and Fort Worth, Texas were there to honor Thyne.
The main entrance to the venue had two books for attendees to leave notes for Thyne and her family and wreaths donated by organizations including the Newport News Public Schools.
Inside on three television screens, photos of Thyne played along the biblical hymn, Here I am Lord.
In front of the podium was a table with two photos of Thyne: her police portrait and one of her daughter, Raegan. Between the two photos was a pair of black boots filled with red roses donated by the Boston Red Sox.
The service featured bag pipers and drummers, church hymns and prayer.
The uniforms in the room outnumbered those in plain clothes.
Police Chief Steve Drew spoke of Thyne’s compassion, her work as a coach for the youth basketball league and how she made the department better by treating people with respect.
“In our profession, it is not the number of arrests; it’s going to be the lives we touch and Katie knew that,” Drew said.
In the days following her death, the police department received support from other law enforcement agencies in Hampton Roads and the community.
Some organizations shared Thyne’s stories on social media like the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter, where she took part in Tail Wagging Tuesdays, an initiative to get shelter animals adopted.
At a 7-Eleven on Warwick Boulevard, a donation box in Thyne’s name was at the cash register.
Northam spoke at the memorial service and offered a few words about Thyne.
“No parent should have to bury their child at 24,” Northam said. “No child should lose her mother, no police department should lose a police officer who was simply doing her job to keep the people of our city safe.”
Other people, including Thyne’s direct supervisor, Sgt. Steve Pennington, Howard Gwynn, Newport News commonwealth’s attorney and Don Reid, chaplain of the police department, reiterated how Thyne was courageous, her quirks and intoxicating personality; a hero committed to her faith who would be missed.
After some remarks, a slideshow with photos and videos of Thyne were displayed on the the screens, from a video of her graduating from the police academy to the motorcade with her American-flag draped casket.
The audience was in tears, with dozens of people dabbing their eyes, coughing or just silently staring at the screen.
After a few words and prayer from Grant Etheridge, the church pastor about Thyne, the room was again silent.
A final dispatch message said Thyne served with honor, respect and courage, noting her badge number 2237.
“May you rest in peace,” the dispatcher’s voice said. “We have the watch from here.”
The memorial service ended with the somber presentation of American flags to Thyne’s loved ones.
Police officers and community members held a procession and transferred Thyne’s body from the medical examiner’s office in Norfolk to the Altmeyer Funeral Home following her death. Days later, a police motorcade escorted her to the airport for final trip to her hometown.
Thyne was buried in Lowell, Massachusetts Saturday — hundreds of officers and mourners across the nation attended her funeral, according to the Newport News Police Department’s Facebook post the next day.
Members of the NNPD led by Drew were also in attendance at the funeral.
Thyne, a Navy reservist, was from Pelham, New Hampshire. She graduated from the police academy in June 2019 before being assigned to the South Precinct in Newport News. She left behind her 2-year-old daughter, Raegan, her partner and fellow officer, Brittany Lewis, her mother, brother and stepfather. Read the entire obituary here.
On Jan. 24 at approximately 6:47 p.m. Thyne and another officer responded to a drug complaint at the 1400 block of 16th Street, authorities said.
Thyne and the other officer spoke with driver, Vernon Evander Green II, 38 of the 1300 block of 16th Street in Newport News, and the passenger, Ivy Toinette Runnells, 38 of the 700 block of Halifax Avenue in Hampton, and noticed a strong odor, police said.
Runnels was removed from the car and the officers opened the driver’s side door asking Green to step out of the vehicle. Instead, Green drove away, dragging Thyne for a block before crashing into a tree where Thyne was “pinned” between the driver’s door and the tree, police said.
Thyne was taken to Sentara General Hospital in Norfolk where she later died from her injuries.
Runnels is charged with possession of marijuana; Green is charged with murder:homicide, possession of marijuana and disregard/elude law enforcement.
He is being held at Hampton Roads Regional Jail without bond. His next court date is at the Newport News General District Court on May 13 at 10 a.m.