Round Rock police officer Charles Whites died Friday, 61 days after he was struck by a driver while directing traffic around the scene of a fatal wreck on Interstate 35.
Whites, 63, was the first Round Rock officer killed in the line of duty in the department’s more than 70-year history, a police spokesman said.
“We are devastated by the passing of officer Charles Whites,” Police Chief Allen Banks said Friday. “Our heart breaks for (his wife) Connie and all of Charles’ family. Charles was a great officer and an even better person.”
Police escorted Whites’ body from Hospice Austin’s Christopher House in East Austin to the Travis County medical examiner’s office on Friday afternoon. People lined the route near the medical examiner’s office in his honor.
“Officer Charles Whites paid the ultimate price to protect our community, and we are profoundly saddened by his passing,” Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan said. “On behalf of the city of Round Rock, I extend my deepest sympathies to his family, and I ask all our citizens to join me in praying for the family, colleagues and friends he leaves behind.”
Whites was directing traffic at Interstate 35 near East Bowman Road around the scene of a pedestrian death when Raul Martinez, 65, did not react quickly enough to Whites’ commands and drove into him, an arrest affidavit said.
Martinez, of Kentucky, was driving a 2006 Mercury Milan and was charged with intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury after police learned he had taken twice the prescribed amount of gabapentin — a drug used for seizures — before the incident, the affidavit said.
Whites, an 18-year veteran of the Round Rock Police Department, suffered broken ribs, a collapsed lung and bleeding in his brain, it said.
The Round Rock Police Officers Association created a relief fund for Whites and his family after the incident. It has raised more than $25,000.
Officials had hopes of him recuperating. In March, police reported that Whites was unconscious and remained on a ventilator at night but was showing more signs of being cognizant.
Whites volunteered for the Police Department’s hostage negotiator team and was involved in a peer support group for police officers, his supervisor, Sgt. Eric Mount, said in March. Whites also was an avid hiker and had a “second-to-none” vocabulary, Mount said.
Mount talked in March about how much Whites cared about people. “He is very much an emotional person, and he liked to work with folks in crisis,” Mount said.
Williamson County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Tim Ryle said Friday that he worked with Whites when they were both police officers in Round Rock. “Charles Whites was a guy that always took the extra time and went the extra step anytime he would respond,” Ryle said. “Charles was always there from the start to the finish every day; he never slacked.”
District Attorney Shawn Dick said he was “deeply saddened to learn about the death of Whites.”
“Over the next few weeks we will continue to work closely with the Round Rock Police Department to file the appropriate charges, but today our thoughts and prayers go out to officer Whites, his family and the Round Rock Police Department,” he said.
Funeral services have not yet been set.