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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

San Marcos remembers officer killed in line of duty one year later

Community+members+place+flowers+on+fallen+San+Marcos+Police+Department+officer+Justin+Putnams+442+wreath%2C+a+tribute+to+his+badge+number%2C+Sunday%2C+April+18%2C+2021%2C+at+Five+Mile+Dam+Parks+Complex.+Putnam+was+killed+one+year+earlier+while+responding+to+a+domestic+disturbance+call+in+San+Marcos.

Community members place flowers on fallen San Marcos Police Department officer Justin Putnam’s ‘442’ wreath, a tribute to his badge number, Sunday, April 18, 2021, at Five Mile Dam Parks Complex. Putnam was killed one year earlier while responding to a domestic disturbance call in San Marcos.

During the early hours of Dec. 4, 2017, Justin Putnam was finishing his shift at the San Marcos Police Department when Kenneth Copeland entered the briefing room he was in.
In preparation for his day shift, Copeland, a veteran of the department, asked Justin Putnam to change the battery in his radio. Copeland proceeded to firmly shake Justin Putnam’s hand, as he always did when the two crossed paths, and asked him how he was doing.
“I gave [Copeland] the standardized reply of ‘great but tired,'” Justin Putnam later types in a Microsoft Word document discovered by his loved ones. “We laughed and went our separate ways with his police radio fully charged. Ken shook my hand with sincerity; I shook his hand out of routine.”
“Had I known that the last time I would see Ken Copeland alive was December 4, 2017, I would have given him a hug; I would have thanked him for the many sticky situations he pulled me out of,” Justin Putnam types about his at-work fatherly figure. “I would have squeezed his hand so hard that his fingers lost color. I wish I could have a day like that back.”
Justin Putnam used his experiences with Copeland, who was killed while serving an arrest warrant, as a grieving reminder to never take people for granted. He would spread the same love and lessons he received from Copeland to many he encountered.
On April 18, 2021, hundreds of people in the San Marcos community gathered on a chilly, sunny evening at the Five Mile Dam Parks Complex to celebrate the life of Justin Putnam, who was killed one year earlier while responding to a domestic disturbance call, and share stories like the one about his last encounter with his mentor.
The event consisted of remarks from SMPD Chief Stan Standridge, Chaplain Mike Hollifield, Mayor Jane Hughson, U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, Director of Public Safety Chase Stapp, SMPD officers and family members of Justin Putnam. Officers Franco Stewart and Justin Mueller, both of whom were wounded in the ambush at the Twin Lakes Villas apartments that left Justin Putnam dead and led to the shooting suspect’s suicide, received purple hearts for their sacrifices a year earlier.
Stewart, with tears streaming down his face and the evening sun shining upon him and Mueller, was awarded the Police Medal of Honor.
Community members describe Justin Putnam, a Texas State alumnus who worked with SMPD for over five years, as a humorous individual who wore his cap backward at the expense of his supervisor’s sanity, loved gangster rap, drank a lot of Bud Light and had a way of connecting with people across the personality spectrum.
“I miss his hugs the most; he was always just, you know, he embraced you…He meant it. And he always hugged you, hello and goodbye. I miss that the most,” says Kelsea Putnam, the younger sister of Justin Putnam. “I miss his humor. He always had a way to make me laugh, always had a smile on his face. And, you know, I miss his love for family too, because him and I were always like, ‘[We] got to get the family together.’ So, this past year, we have had a lot of family time, and we spent a lot of time together, and I know it makes them so happy. And I just feel him with us when we’re all together.”
After Justin Putnam was killed, flags in San Marcos and across Texas were lowered following a letter of support sent from Gov. Greg Abbott to Hughson. Community members left flowers, cards and stuffed animals at Justin Putnam’s patrol vehicle memorial at City Hall. People gathered alongside roads from Austin to San Marcos to take part in a procession for the fallen officer.
One year later, Assistant Police Chief Bob Klett, who was interim chief at the time of the April 18, 2020, shooting, remembers Justin Putnam as someone who always had “a twinkle in his eye” and uplifted other officers in the department.
“I remember after Ken Copeland was killed, we all talked about, you know, it’s always the best [who get taken away],” Klett says. “Ken was that special person and then Justin [Putnam] coming up right behind him…Even the people that get arrested will come back to you, man, [and say], ‘[I] remember him; he treated me so well.’ And it’s because they’re out there working. They’re out there doing the job. They’re doing the good work. So, in recent years, losing two of those really shining stars, it’s just…It’s hard.”
Midway through the service, at 6:18 p.m., Standridge called for an unplanned, minute-long moment of silence in honor of Justin Putnam — a drone from above, wind sifting through the air and sniffles from sobbing loved ones the only sounds present — to provide Justin Putnam a chance “to cry down here and just to declare to all of you: Do not give up during the darkest hour.”
The latter portion of the memorial service would feature more stories about Justin Putnam, having to do with funny group text exchanges with fellow officers and his police academy introductions. During Justin Putnam’s time at the academy, instructors would ask the soon-to-be officers to provide a brief background introduction, to which he, in an amusing fashion, would talk about how he worked as a juvenile detention officer for years, only had Tuesdays and Wednesdays off, interned with the Austin homicide department and paid his way through the police academy after graduating college.
Kyle Lobo, a SMPD officer and member of Thin Blue Line LEMC, a law enforcement motorcycle club full of active duty, retired or reserve law enforcement officers who support one another, met Justin Putnam dating back to Lobo’s time at Texas State’s University Police Department. Lobo says he vividly remembers the conversations the two used to have about their jobs.
“We met up in a parking lot after a call, and we just talked about, ‘Man, this job sucks. Yeah, nobody wants to do this job. How are we going to put up with people? This is, this is complicated. This sucks.’ And then the last comments we made to one another was, ‘But nobody else would do it except for us, so we have to stay in,'” Lobo says. “Then the second conversation we had a few weeks before his death… He was telling me, ‘I’m glad you’re here [at SMPD]. It took you a while. But I’m glad we have good people like you to come over.'”
“He was a good guy; he was funny as hell,” Lobo adds. “He didn’t hold back. He cracked me up every single time. And I wish I had more time to get to know him a lot better, rather than just at work.”
The event concluded with family members and community members lining up to place flowers on Justin Putnam’s blue ‘442’ wreath, a tribute to his badge number. In honor of Justin Putnam’s love for soccer, people in attendance were encouraged to kick soccer balls into goals out at the park.
“[The memorial was] a solemn occasion,” Hughson says. “But it’s really good to remember and remember, you know, what a good police officer he was — really, really excellent. And he was a lot of fun, too. I did not personally know him. But I know he was well, well thought of by his colleagues.”
Kelsea Putnam says it was “amazing” for her and her family to once again witness the community support that has gotten them through the last year.
“They have literally picked me off the ground, helped me, [comforted] me,” Kelsea Putnam says. “And, you know, seeing random people that I’ve never met in the community, [them telling me] they’re praying for me; they’re sending us love. It’s amazing to see that.”
Kelsea Putnam’s hope is for the community to continue to see Justin Putnam as the “good person” he was to everyone he encountered.
“He never meant harm,” Kelsea Putnam says. “He really wanted to be a cop to protect people — whoever in the community and represent well. He was a person too, not just to cop…He was a good person and a good cop.”

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  • A four-photo collage of fallen San Marcos Police Department officer Justin Putnam sits at a memorial service, Sunday, April 18, 2021, at Five Mile Dam Parks Complex. Putnam was killed one year earlier while responding to a domestic disturbance call in San Marcos.

  • A four-photo collage of fallen San Marcos Police Department officer Justin Putnam sits at a memorial service, Sunday, April 18, 2021, at Five Mile Dam Parks Complex. Putnam was killed one year earlier while responding to a domestic disturbance call in San Marcos.

  • Community members place flowers on fallen San Marcos Police Department officer Justin Putnam’s ‘442’ wreath, a tribute to his badge number, Sunday, April 18, 2021, at Five Mile Dam Parks Complex. Putnam was killed one year earlier while responding to a domestic disturbance call in San Marcos.

  • The U.S. and Texas flags sit at half-staff during a memorial service for fallen San Marcos Police Department officer Justin Putnam, Sunday, April 18, 2021, at Five Mile Dam Parks Complex. Putnam was killed one year earlier while responding to a domestic disturbance call in San Marcos.

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