CORSICANA, Tex. – Brent Thompson was training to join the Dallas Area Rapid Transit motorcycle corps, and wanted his friend William Franklin to affix his pin signifying the certification when the time came.
Franklin was Thompson’s fellow officer before suffering a stroke, and handed Thompson’s wife the pin in the ICU.
“The morning after the stroke, when William was in ICU fighting for his life, Brent went in to see his friend,” Shonna Franklin said. “He walked over and took me by the hands. He said, ‘These are my wings. I want (William) to be the one to pin them on me when I finish motor school.'”
At a vigil Sunday night in Thompson’s heartbroken hometown, the Franklins returned the pin to Thompson’s family.
“Brent was very special to our family,” said Shonna Franklin, who spoke on her husband’s behalf. “These last few days have been extremely tough.”
Thompson, a 43-year-old newlywed, was one of five officers killed Thursday in downtown Dallas.
Hundreds of people gathered for the vigil at sunset around the flagpole at Corsicana High School, his alma mater. His family members attended but requested privacy from media covering the event.
His brother, Darrell Thompson, spoke on the family’s behalf.
“We know we’ll see him again,” he said.
His brother was serving as a civilian in Iraq, training police officers, when Darrell’s daughter Samantha was born. The newborn had to have surgery and it was a tense time.
“My phone rang and I expected it would be a nurse. It was Brent, calling from Iraq,” he said. “He said, ‘Don’t worry, she’s a Thompson, she’ll be fine.’ He was in a hostile land, trying to comfort me. He is a hero. Everyone knows that now.”
Corsicana, about an hour south of Dallas, is a tight-knit town of about 25,000, but big-city concerns were apparent during the vigil. Law enforcement officers stationed on the high school’s roof kept watch during the service. Many officers, including his grief-stricken fellow DART officers were among the mourners, too.
“I never had a brother before. If I did I like to think he would have been just like Brent,” said DART Officer Robert Kiser. “He meant the world to me. He talked about his family every time we were on patrol together. Brent Thompson was my brother, and I loved him.”
Navarro County Sheriff Elmer Tanner and Randy Ratliff, chief of the Corsicana school district police force also paid tribute. Early in his career Thompson worked for the sheriffs department, then as a school district police officer.
“He would do anything for anybody,” Ratliff said. “He was always smiling. He was always happy.”
Corsicana Police Chief Robert Johnson appealed to the public to support law enforcement.
“Please stand together and say this explosive rhetoric and confrontation attitudes are not acceptable,” he said. “I ask all official and unofficial leaders to be proactive in guiding those who would act on pure emotion. Let’s use our maturity and wisdom and not inflame the situation.”
Sheriff Tanner also touched on the tensions between law enforcement and the citizens they serve, stoked by police shootings elsewhere.
“Law enforcement is under stresses today unlike we’ve ever experienced,” he said. He was moved by the people who stood along the route into town when Thompson’s remains were brought home.
“I’ve been a law enforcement officer in this community for over 28 years,” Tanner said. “I have never in my life been touched in a manner that I was in bringing our fallen brother home to our city. The outpouring and showing of love – it was a sight to behold and a fitting tribute to such a fine young man that’s gone too early.”
He gave an emotional farewell to his friend: “Rest easy, my brother. We’ll take it from here.”