NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — You don’t have to look much further than Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew to know how special Officer Katie Thyne was to the community.
WRIC’s sister station WAVY has video of Thyne at her police graduation ceremony in June 2019. In the video, she is seen with the police chief, who says “Are you ready for this?”
She answers “Yes, sir.”
The chief then says: “You see that community out there? They are waiting for you to change things.”
At a news conference Friday about Thyne’s death in the line of duty, Drew –fighting back tears — said Thyne will never be forgotten.
“Officer Thyne, Katie, was a true hero and she served this community,” Drew said.
Thyne joined the Newport News Police Department in 2018 and was assigned to the South Precinct. She leaves behind her mother and stepfather, a brother, her two-year-old daughter and a loving partner.
10 On Your Side talked to a good friend of Thyne’s to learn more about the Katie Thyne that many people may not have seen on the streets of Newport News.
“Katie is probably one of the best people I have ever met in my life,” friend Robert Van said. He was with Thyne before she joined the police force. They served together in the U.S. Navy and both walked onto the USS Abraham Lincoln at the same time in June 2014.
That is how Thyne and Van met and became friends. Over the years, their families would spend quality time together, including cookouts, Van said.
“I hate to say the ‘ideal sailor,’ but she was just so energetic she is always smiling,” Van said.
Drew echoed the sentiment.
“Always smiling,” Drew said at the news conference. “If you ever saw her, all she did was smile. You almost start to laugh at her because she was always smiling. I don’t know about what, but she was always smiling.”
Van said Thyne once met up with a kid who pulled a gun on her. She was good at deescalating tense situations.
“She could have pulled her gun. She did not. She deescalated it, and took him into custody and then helped him. She did that by giving him a lower charge than a felony,” he said.
Van is left to wonder whether Thyne was trying to deescalate the situation with the driver on Thursday who wouldn’t get out of the car.
Thyne thought of Van as one of her closest friends, and he was one of the first to be called to the hospital after the tragedy unfolded.
“It got very ominous when we got there, and very quickly it got worse, and then Police Chief Drew came in and told us.”
She died from her injuries at a hospital.
The last time Van, who is a firearms instructor, spoke with Thyne was Jan. 11. She was trying to recruit him to join the force.
“We spoke, and she said ‘We want you to come join Newport News
police. You should definitely do it,” Van recounted.
Van said he found the chief’s news conference Friday morning sincere and comforting.
‘A joy to be around’
The 24-year-old police officer went well above and beyond the call of duty. She was all about “community.”
So, it’s no surprise the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter remembered how Officer Thyne was involved in Tail Wagging Tuesday.
Thyne would have been with children this Saturday, reaching out and establishing those community bonds.
“Matter of fact, those games were scheduled Saturday. We had a conversation [asking] should we cancel them. The answer is no,” Drew said. Of course not, Thyne would have wanted the games to go on — and they will.
The club will be hold a tribute to Thyne during tomorrow’s game.
During her short time with the department, Thyne touched the lives of many, but especially those at the Boys and Girls Vlub in Newport News where she coached girl’s basketball.
“They loved her. I mean, there was never a dull moment. She always had the kids smiling and laughing; a joy to be around,” said Walida Hooker, unit director for the Greater Hampton Roads Boys and Girls Club.
The club said the girls she coached are taking it hard. Her picture is now displayed by the entrance of the building.
“She was lovable, happy-go-lucky, the children loved her. She had a very positive impact here,” Hooker said. “She left her footprint here and it’s going to hurt not to see her here on Saturdays when we have our games.”
Although she’s not here anymore, the club said Thyne’s memory and the values she passed down will continue to be displayed on the court.
“She’s in a better place and just play ball, that’s what she would want — play ball. She’ll be forever held in our hearts,” Hooker said.
A city of grief
Friends and even strangers continue to grieve the loss of a hero who gave her life protecting the community.
“Just to see her on TV and to see her picture and to see how young and vibrant she is and she’s a new officer, just breaks my heart,” said Erin Martin, a Newport News resident.
Families and some who came alone paid their respects to the 24-year-old officer. Photos of the mother and the loved ones she left behind were placed in the windshield of a police cruiser memorial the department had set up.
“To have a young child that’s not going to have their mom around is just heartbreaking,” Martin said. “We just want the family and the rest of the police officers to know we support them.”
Drew, the police chief, emphasized community and togetherness in the wake of Thyne’s death.
“As we go forward, the days will be challenging,” Drew said. “I encourage the department to lean on each other, and the members of the community. It is OK to cry.”
Drew held the audience for 30 minutes Friday morning: His words were sincere, emotional, and — some may say — unforgettable.
Unforgettable, just like Thyne.