Freeport Police Chief Raymond Garivey remembers the moment in December 2018 he laid eyes on this precious little girl who would become a part of his life – on or off duty – for the next calendar year.
Chief Garivey knew from a Facebook post that Abigail Arias’ chemo treatments were not working. Her doctors had turned the case over to the Good Lord. The chief felt it was his calling to respond. “We need to do something for her,” he said to his troops jn Freeport.
A New Crime-Fighter
And so, he invited Abigail and her family to a Friday evening event called “Pancakes with Santa,” which also featured toys and candy canes for kids of all ages.
“She showed up,” a still-emotional chief recalled in an interview. “She was the most beautiful bald-headed girl I’ve ever seen in my life. She could light up the room with her smile. We could’ve had a power outage and she would have lit up the building.”
The little girl’s attitude had no concern about the loss of her hair from chemo. She proceeded to capture the heart of the chief – and many others in the coming months – with the revelation that she wanted to be a police officer when she grew up.
Well, Abigail was growing up fast and Garivey responded with the speed of Code 3. By the following Feb. 7 hundreds of concerned citizens in the Freeport area and beyond were inspired to attend her swearing-in ceremony at headquarters. The chief administered the oath, which included a vow that “one of the bad guys” was still at large.
Repeating the oath, Abigail said, “I promise to fight the bad guys until the cancer in my body is gone.”
Garivey “lost it,” as did others present and millions of others who viewed the Facebook post. Abigail, in a Freeport police uniform, became a national and international symbol of a fighter, a worthy warrior leading the good guys over the baddies.
The chief started spending more time with his new officer, attending one event after another, many of which involved law enforcement agencies. Abigail wore Badge No. 758. She wore a realistic sidearm when on duty – and she always seemed to be on duty.
Thirty-seven million viewed her swearing-in on Facebook. Other swearing-in ceremonies attracted the same attention. In addition to the HPD, other departments making her an honorary officer were in Las Vegas, Midland-Odessa, New York City and in the states of Alabama and Hawaii. She became a Texas Ranger and a member of the U. S. Secret Service.
As a Secret Service “agent,” Abigail was allowed into the Oval Office at the White House. The president was not present, but her fellow agents allowed her to sit in the President’s chair and “spin around.”
“We went 10 months when she became an honorary police officer in 21 different agencies,” Garivey said with a smile.
The Memorial at Fox
The HPD swearing-in – as we now know – had extra special ramifications.
It unfolded at the Fox hangar at Hobby Airport, home of HPD’s helicopter crews, in early 2019.
“That’s where we met Jason Knox,” the chief recalled. “When I heard details of the tragedy, I reached out to people who were part of that event that day. For whatever reason they didn’t remember him being there.
“About a week later, somebody sent me that wonderful photo that is in the shadow box now. That was God’s calling.
“These two angels are having a ball in heaven right now. They are having a blast! He’s mentoring her and she’s telling him how to be a better police officer.”
The individual who hunted down the treasured photo was Todd Young, the officer who organized the hangar ceremony.
Knox died in the line of duty on May 2, 2020, in a Fox crash on the city’s northside. He was widely respected and loved by a number of his fellow officers. He is the son of Houston City Councilman Mike Knox, himself a former HPD officer. The younger Knox also was known for his devotion to the restoration of vintage HPD patrol cars.
Fox had presented Officer Abigail with a specially-tailored Fox flight jacket supplied by Heather Cagle, wife of Greg Cagle, attorney for the Texas Municipal Police Officers Association. Heather Cagle also serves as the association secretary. The Cagles know “Chief Ray” and learned of the need for the jacket. Heather purchased it and turned it over to HPD Air Patrol head Kyle Englehardt (now HPD retired), who applied the patches and took the unselfish step of putting his personal “wings” on the special jacket.
Abigail’s family – father Ruben, mother Ilene and brother Ethan – had possession of the jacket but graciously provided it to Chief Garivey to be custom framed with a picture of Abigail and Jason Knox to be displayed at the Fox hangar at Hobby.
The chief presented the memorial piece at the HPOU’s general membership meeting on June 3.
“The family wanted it to be displayed where people could look at it, enjoy it and remember Abigail and Jason, who met on a very special occasion,” the chief said.
Among the other Officer Abigail memorials is a specially designed chair that rests in the Freeport Police Headquarters.
Tommy Capell, a former police officer who now hails from Richmond, builds these chairs and presents them to departments when a line-of-duty death happens. Saving a Hero’s Place (Capell’s organization) and Tommy Capell have provided hundreds of chairs to departments all over the nation, with the purpose being a symbol used to always remember the fallen hero and his/her devotion to duty.
“For Abigail he used a different criterion,” the chief said. “It was not a line-of-duty death. She was not a real officer. But Tommy was so moved by her story he made an exception for her because she brought so much happiness and positive thinking about police officers.”
Still Fighting the ‘Bad Guy’
In their nearly one year of police functions together, the chief would have lunch with Abigail at school and often take her to many appearances, all serving to portray police officers as positive community forces and the real crime fighters.
Andrea Schmauss, active member of the Houston Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, a Badge & Gun contributor and favorite around the Union, got to know Abigail, her family and the chief.
“She had her own mailbox at the Freeport Police Department,” Schmauss reported. “The mail built up. And after her passing, it took us 10 hours to sort it all.
“She received police badges from chiefs around the world, clothing with llamas – she loved llamas and they were part of her logo. She got a badge from an officer in France and a police helmet from an officer in the United Kingdom.”
Capell carved a llama on Abigail’s FPD chair.
The number of toys, clothing and games sent to Abigail eventually amounted to “a truckload” that was donated to M. D. Anderson and Texas Children’s Hospital.
“She had a major impact, a positive effect for police officers,” the ardent police activist said. “All the Freeport officers were with her when she died in Angleton. I was with her when she died. We were with her through the night. Tears were in their eyes.”
Abigail was well known to joke with the chief. One day she was sitting in his office chair and he told her, “That’s the chief’s chair.”
“You’re the old chief,” she retorted. “I’m the new chief.”
In one of the last few somber moments of her life, Officer Abigail turned to the old chief and said, “You need to tell them a joke. They’re too sad. They need to be cheered up.”
Chief Garivey was aptly inspired to devote time to help young people like Abigail who are experiencing a fight with the “bad guy” that uses cancer to attack their bodies.
He has help form a new foundation in Abigail’s memory. Its unofficial, yet appropriate name is “Abigail’s Reach.” Fundraising efforts are aimed at helping bring fun times to children in the late stages of their fight against the bad guy. Often this means providing eventful trips and visits with celebrities, much like Abigail’s meetings with J. J. Watt and Jose Altuve, two of her sports heroes.
“This little girl fighting cancer reached so many people, inspiring them. Abigail’s story inspired them to keep fighting,” Abigail’s “old chief” said.
Chief Ray also said he will continue to be inspired by the Jason Knox story, saying, “They were meant to meet that day. They are now two angels in heaven together. It was amazing to know he was there and met her.”