We shall start with one of the two eulogists at Jeffrey’s Sept. 27 celebration of life at Grace Church on the Gulf Freeway, the all-too-familiar scene of eulogies for the department’s fallen officers of the past four years.
Lacie Jeffrey, the fallen hero’s only child, stood strong and steadied before her fellow mourners, and began by quoting the 23rd Psalm, saying, “This is my dad’s favorite. He had it tattooed on his arm.”
Lacie Holds it Together
Lacie’s heartfelt tribute also began with a moment of silence to give the thousands present an opportunity “to look around and see how many people my dad affected,” as the rest of Houston watched via live stream.
Then she detailed two parts of her dad that rubbed off on her and will be with her forever:
In addition to being the brave, courageous, hard-working Houston police officer described by both Mayor Sylvester Turner and Police Chief Troy Finner, Bill Jeffrey “was a husband, a father and a grandfather. I’m the only person in this world who got to experience him as a dad. I want to share a little bit of that with you today.”
Jeffrey would drive hours’ worth of miles to see his only granddaughter Laney Kaiser, Lacie said, and always checked in with his only daughter very often. He started every conversation he had with her, whether in person, on the phone or a voice mail with, “Hey, kid.”
“Hey, kid, how’re doin’?”
“Hey, kid, I miss you.”
“Hey, kid, how’s Laney?”
Lacie said, “What I wouldn’t give to hear that again today.”
Jeffrey the dad was there for his daughter at every defining point of her life – even when she was entered in a speech contest and needed practice. He had her come down to his office at the station, stand on his desk before a roomful of officers and deliver the speech. She was 10 or 11 at the time.
Lacie conceded that that speech was much easier than the one she was delivering to the mourners honoring her dad’s life. Strong and steadfast, she continued.
A Psalm of David. (KJV)
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
She said Jeffrey loved greeting cards. There is one for every occasion and he made it a practice to regularly send one to Lacie. He would underline parts of the card’s message or verse for his own emphasis and always write something at the bottom especially for the occasion.
“My favorite one was the one he sent me when I was accepted at Texas A&M,” Lacie recalled. “At the bottom of the card it said: ‘H N B.’
“I was with my mom at the time. I asked her if she knew what H N B meant, but she didn’t have a clue. So I called him and in the midst of that conversation I said, ‘Hey, Dad, what does H N B mean?
“I could feel him rolling his eyes through the phone and he said, ‘Hold Nothing Back! Duh.’ Like I was supposed to know that. I’m pretty sure he just made that up.”
Lacie held nothing back before the mourners that included hundreds wearing Houston Blue or the dress colors of other law enforcement agencies. Besides the memory of a doting father and grandfather and a brave police officer committed to all Houstonians, she underscored the message of today and left unanswered the questions officers and law-abiding citizens must keep asking: How does a convicted felon get out on reduced bail, acquire a long gun and react to law enforcement officers with a loud hail of powerful bullets?
Waking up and Calling
Lacie recalled the question posed in the scholarship essay contest sponsored years ago by the Houston Police Officers Union. It involved gun control and where our society needs to go to resolve the issue. She said her dad told her, “Gun’s don’t kill people, people kill people.”
The multiple-felonious individual who showered Bill Jeffrey and Officer Michael Vance was DOA’ed at the scene by backup officers. Vance survived and was at home recovering from serious wounds.
Lacie told a television interviewer that her dad would still be alive if the criminal justice system hadn’t let Deon Ledet slip through the cracks at the Courthouse. He was a convicted felon prohibited from owning a handgun, let alone a long gun. Prosecutors wanted Ledet held without bond even though he was not accused of a capital crime.
Why was he released? How did he acquire the long gun? The latter question goes unanswered, while the answer to the former lies in the lap of state District Judge Greg Glass, who lowered Ledet’s bond in half to $20,000 (effectively $2,000).
In her very moving eulogy for the dad she loved, Lacie turned activist, calling the situation that led to her dad’s death “a wake-up call, not just for police officers on the streets but for judges and legislators to solve a gun control problem that keeps the advantages on the side of felons like Ledet.
“My dad would have done anything for Houston. He loved his city, he loved his job, he loved his team. He loved each and every one of those guys. My dad took those bullets so those guys didn’t have to.”
Yes, Bill Jeffrey followed – as the latest entry in the Houston Police Department’s line-of-duty-death log clearly shows – his own clearly expressed adage his daughter stated she will carry with her for the rest of her life.
It’s the same one that should stick to those sincerely trying to change a criminal justice system that needs improved gun control and more appropriate bonds and sentences for hardened criminals.
As Senior Police Officer Bill Jeffrey is never forgotten for his bravery and courage, so too should his adage, his profound proverb.
Hold Nothing Back!
H N B.