published Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Somber anniversary: Chattanooga police colleagues honor slain officer Sgt. Tim Chapin

Flowers lie on the ground Monday near the site where Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin was shot and killed one year ago. Several officers gathered at the site to honor their slain comrade.
Flowers lie on the ground Monday near the site where Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin was shot and killed one year ago. Several officers gathered at the site to honor their slain comrade.
Photo by Angela Lewis.
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  • photo
    A cup of coffee and a paper are on a table at the Brainerd Road Starbucks in memory of Sgt. Tim Chapin, who was killed one year ago.
    Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    Chattanooga police officer Mark Bender, right, watches as his wife, Dianna, and daughter, Katie, place a flower on the ground near the site where Sgt. Tim Chapin was shot and killed one year ago. Several officers gathered to say a prayer and have a moment of silence.
    Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Exactly one year to the date, a group in blue uniforms approaches the spot where Chattanooga Police Department Sgt. Tim Chapin was slain.

Many stared ahead as they held a moment of silence Monday morning, saying prayers for the fallen officer.

Chapin, 51, was a 26-year veteran of the department. He was killed on April 2, 2011, during a botched robbery attempt at the U.S. Money Shops on Brainerd Road.

On Monday, family members of officers involved in the robbery call stepped forward to place sprays of flowers on a grassy patch on the side of Old Birds Mill Road in remembrance of Chapin. The ceremony took place at 10:24 a.m., the time the call went out a year ago.

"It definitely solidifies the department when we have events like this," said Officer Mark Bender, one of five officers who responded to the robbery call. "You have 400 personalities in our department and this basically brings them to the same point."

Bender's wife, Dianna, and his 22-month old daughter, Katie, placed a spray of red carnations on the grass.

Officer Lorin Johnston, who was shot and wounded in the incident, and Officer David Ashley were the first two officers on the scene. Chapin responded to provide backup, and Officer Jonathan Brock, who was off duty and working a private security job at the time, came toward the end.

Chapin's family did not attend the informal service. A lunch was planned for Monday with other officers as well as members of his family.

Only minutes after Chapin's death, Jesse Mathews, 26, was arrested in connection with the shooting. He faces charges including first-degree murder, attempted murder and robbery. His case is set to go trial in January 2013.

Joining city police officers and several Hamilton County Sheriff's Office deputies at the service were cadets in the police training academy.

"They need to see this. It's definitely a reality. That's why they bring them out here," Bender said shortly after the academy class left.

Some officers planned to visit Chapin's grave at Hamilton Memorial Gardens, where a replica of his badge adorns the grave marker. All officers involved in the shooting were given the anniversary date off.

At Monday's informal ceremony, some of the officers involved shed tears and hugged each other.

Among the officers who responded, three of the five were fathers and two went home to their children that day.

"I just wanted to see my daughter," said Bender, who said he got home as quickly as he could to spend time with his daughter, an infant at the time.

Since the shooting, the Benders always say goodbye every day because they know anything can happen when Bender, a 13-year veteran of the department, goes off to work.

"I always kiss the significant other goodbye and tell him to have a good day," Dianna Bender said. "You know. Don't stress over the small things."

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at 423-757-6406 or bburger@timesfreepress.com. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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