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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

Community ‘devastated’ following tragic death of police officer

Jaden+EdisonA+%26%238220%3BBlue+Lives+Matter%26%238221%3B+wristband+sits+on+fallen+SMPD+officer+Justin+Putnam%26%238217%3Bs+police+vehicle+memorial%2C+Monday%2C+April+20%2C+2020%2C+near+San+Marcos+City+Hall+on+East+Hopkins+Street.+People+throughout+the+community+have+left+items+like+balloons%2C+stuffed+animals%2C+cards%2C+crosses+and+more.

Jaden EdisonA “Blue Lives Matter” wristband sits on fallen SMPD officer Justin Putnam’s police vehicle memorial, Monday, April 20, 2020, near San Marcos City Hall on East Hopkins Street. People throughout the community have left items like balloons, stuffed animals, cards, crosses and more.

On the evening of April 18, Kiara Echevarría heard initial reports of a shooting involving San Marcos police officers at the Twin Lake Villas Apartments and hoped they were not true.
“When they said officers were shot, I was kind of like, ‘I hope it’s none of the officers I know because I know quite a few,’” Echevarría said. “[I prayed] that it was nobody I [knew.]”
That night, the San Marcos Police Department confirmed that a man shot and killed an officer, wounded two others and died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at the apartments on Hunter Road.
The next morning, the City of San Marcos released the names of the deceased and two wounded officers: Justin Putnam, Franco Stewart and Justin Mueller, respectively. Echevarría’s prayers were not answered.
Echevarría got a chance to speak to officers Putnam and Mueller throughout her time working at Tommy Hilfiger. She said people would often steal from the store, and the two were on-call to help.
“They were honestly so nice,” Echevarría said. “My boss was messaging us because we have a group chat for work, and we were just talking about how [Putnam] was so nice; he always came in just happy, and it’s just really sad; we are all kind of devastated.”
Sadness and devastation are shared throughout the entire community. Since the April 18 incident, Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to Mayor Jane Hughson allowing flags in San Marcos and across Texas to be lowered. People also gathered at a procession from Austin to San Marcos and a police vehicle memorial at City Hall to pay their respects to the fallen officer.
“I urge all Texans to remember and honor the public service of Officer Putnam to the City of San Marcos and the State of Texas as a brave and distinguished peace officer,” Abbott stated in the letter.
The April 20 procession featured hundreds of Hays County residents in face masks standing and conversing in the heat, waving Texas and American flags and eventually standing in silence, watching Putnam’s hearse pass through the roads. On Wonder World Drive in San Marcos, New Braunfels first responders stood on the side of the road, saluting SMPD cars and motorcycles accompanying the hearse.
“On one hand it’s unfortunate that it takes a tragedy to bring unity within the community, but the silver lining is that it is a show of unity and it is a show of support that brings people together,” said Art Guerra, City of New Braunfels police chaplain.
Guerra did not know Putnam, but he said recognizing his service to the community was important. He believes when someone dies in the line of duty, they have given their all and it should be respected.
“Emotionally, [Putnam’s death] is upsetting; 31, 32, years old, you’re just really starting life,” Guerra said. “It’s jarring because you know what it takes for someone to put their life on the line every single day.”
At Putnam’s vehicle memorial, people have left behind balloons, stuffed animals, cards, crosses, wristbands and more. Visitors range from those who have lived in the community for decades to people who heard about the incident from elsewhere.
Austin resident Susan Ashworth said when she read about Putnam’s death, it saddened her and prompted her to stop by the memorial. She wrote a card for his family and fiancè and placed it in the driver car door windshield.
“[The situation is] horrible; it’s horrible,” Ashworth said. “It’s such a waste of a life of a young man with all sorts of promise, hope and people who loved him—people who he loved; there was just something about this situation that felt particularly painful.”
The pain of Putnam’s death also resonated with James and Mache Canchola, a married couple who have lived in San Marcos since 1999. James said the news of Putnam’s death was shocking.
“We don’t lose police officers like that,” James said. “We worked in the restaurant business for years, so we knew all the cops; we were familiar with all the police officers here in town, so it’s just sad.”
Putnam is the first SMPD officer killed in the line of duty since officer Kenneth Copeland was shot and killed on Dec. 4, 2017, while serving an arrest warrant.
San Marcos resident Keith Giles said tragedies like Copeland and Putnam’s deaths make him view the city differently. He said the vibration of the community is not what it once was.
“We’re seeing the city get big, and these are the kind of tragedies that happen,” Giles said.

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  • Jaden EdisonAustin resident Susan Ashworth visits fallen SMPD officer Justin Putnam’s police vehicle memorial, Monday, April 20, 2020, near San Marcos City Hall on East Hopkins Street.

  • Jaden EdisonAustin resident Susan Ashworth left a card for fallen SMPD officer Justin Putnam’s family, Monday, April 20, 2020, at Putnam’s vehicle memorial located near San Marcos City Hall.

  • (Left to right) James and Mache Canchola sit near fallen SMPD officer Justin Putnam’s vehicle memorial to pay their respects, Monday, April 20, 2020, near San Marcos City Hall on East Hopkins Street. Putnam was killed April 18 while responding to a domestic disturbance call.

  • Eva Rodriguez waves American flags and holds a sign in support of police, Monday, April 20, 2020, along Interstate 35 near Rio Vista Park. Rodriguez waited for the procession of the late SMPD officer Justin Putnam to return to San Marcos.

  • Texas State criminal justice senior Carly Salinas (left) shows her support for late SMPD officer Justin Putnam, Monday, April 20, 2020, along Interstate 35 near Rio Vista Park. Crowds awaited Putnam’s procession to drive through. Salinas said that as a criminal justice major, she felt obligated to show her support for police.

  • Mario Moreno holds an American flag, Monday, April 20, 2020, on the side of Interstate 35 near Rio Vista Park. Moreno is a retired city employee. He was joined by his wife, Tina, to support the late SMPD officer Justin Putnam.

  • Two American flags wave from the top of a man lift, Monday, April 20, 2020, along Interstate 35 near Rio Vista Park. Construction workers waited in the median for the procession of the late SMPD officer Justin Putnam to pass by.

  • San Marcos resident John Garcia holds an American flag, Monday, April 20, 2020, along Interstate 35 near Rio Vista Park as he waits for the procession of the late SMPD officer Justin Putnam to return to San Marcos.

  • Eva Rodriguez holds a bundle of American flags and a poster, Monday, April 20, 2020, along Interstate 35 near Rio Vista Park as she waits for the late SMPD officer Justin Putnam’s procession to pass by.

  • Bibi Arredondo waves a black and blue American flag, Monday, April 20, 2020, next to Interstate 35 near Rio Vista Park. The thin blue line represents the role police play in maintaining the safety of the country. Arredondo’s brother has served in the police force for 33 years. “The brotherhood is just spectacular that my brother has had. It’s a brotherhood. This is my family,” Arredondo said.

  • Members of the New Braunfels Police Department align the side of a road for fallen SMPD officer Justin Putnam’s procession, Monday, April 20, 2020, near Wonder World Drive in San Marcos.

  • San Marcos resident Mike Berish leans on his vehicle with the words “GODSPEED OFFICER PUTNAM” on a window, Monday, April 20, 2020, in San Marcos. Putnam was killed April 18 while responding to a domestic disturbance call.

  • People align on the side of a road for fallen SMPD officer Justin Putnam’s procession, Monday, April 20, 2020, near Wonder World Drive in San Marcos. Putnam was killed April 18 while responding to a domestic disturbance call.

  • New Braunfels police Communications Center Supervisor Paul Marler stands with his hand over his heart as fallen officer Justin Putnam’s procession passes through Wonder World Drive, Monday, April 20, 2020, in San Marcos. Putnam was killed April 18 while responding to a domestic disturbance call.

  • A woman holds a sign that reads “Rest in Peace Officer Putnam” and a bundle of American flags, Monday, April 20, 2020, on Interstate 35.

  • The body of Justin Putnam, the San Marcos police officer shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance April 18, was transported from the Travis County Medical Examiner’s office to the Thomason Funeral home, Monday, April 20, 2020, in San Marcos.

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