Those who knew Round Rock police officer Charles Whites remembered him as a kind man with a great sense of humor and a big mustache grin.
Fellow police officers, friends and family lovingly recalled memories of the fallen officer and the effect he had on their lives and community during a memorial service at the Shoreline Church just outside Austin on Wednesday.
Whites, a 19-year veteran of the Round Rock Police Department, was directing traffic around an accident Feb. 25 at Interstate 35 near East Bowman Road when he was struck by a car. He died Friday from his injuries.
He is the first Round Rock police officer to die in the line of duty in the department’s 70-plus-year history. Raul Martinez, 65 and from Kentucky, was charged with intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury in Whites’ death.
Round Rock police Chaplain Don Dye, who officiated, began the service by saying, “We have chosen this to be a celebration of life because Charles was a happy guy.”
With his casket elevated on the church stage in front of them, speakers one by one recalled Whites’ love of the outdoors and scuba diving — he once was manager of Wilderness Whitewater Supply — and that he liked to play classical music in his patrol car.
Police Chief Allen Banks said Whites, 63, loved being around the community, adding that many residents have reached out to say how Whites made a difference in their lives.
“Charles was the same whether he was wearing the uniform or not,” he said. “He treated all citizens he came in contact with dignity, respect and with kindness.”
Whites served as a patrol officer, field training officer and hostage negotiator on the department’s SWAT team.
Banks said that Whites would always try to de-escalate situations and had a way of connecting with people, making him a great crisis negotiator.
Holding back tears, he addressed Whites’ wife, Connie: “Your husband made the ultimate sacrifice doing what he loved. He is a true hero.”
Among those who spoke to the estimated 2,000 people in the church were three fellow officers. Lynn Carmichael worked with Whites for 17 years, some of that time on the SWAT team. She said Whites was known as “Super Chuck” and “Most Interesting Man in the World.”
He was a fearless adventurer, she said, had an incredible work ethic, a true desire to help others and “an attention to detail like no other.”
The crowd laughed as she recalled how Whites would frequently show up to training with a bag of nuts and carried a wallet that “would rival any woman’s purse.”
A SWAT tactic called the “Flying Chucky” was named for him following a training exercise, she said, after he launched himself in the air and latched onto an officer.
She said a passer-by had seen Whites directing traffic shortly before he was struck by a car, and reported that he seemed very happy, “almost dancing,” as he worked.
Officer Josh Chadney called Whites a brother and a friend, and said he always had a smile on his face: “No matter what, Charles was always there. … Charles is and always will be a fond memory for me and the Police Department.”
Chadney shared an old scuba photo of Whites with long hair. “He looked as if he belonged in Woodstock,” he said.
Whites would “guide youth to a better path,” said Round Rock police Chaplain Jerry Lyle, who was a friend of Whites for 11 years. “He cared for them.”
He noted Whites had served a 12-hour shift before he directed traffic on the day of his death.
After the memorial, Whites’ casket was carried by fellow officers outside to the church lawn, where full law enforcement honors were performed. Bagpipes played “Amazing Grace” as guests watched tearfully.
A procession then carried the officer’s body back to Beck Funeral Home on RM 620, but first made a detour through Round Rock. Police cars from as far away as Amarillo took part in the procession.
Hundreds of people lined North Mays Street and watched silently as the procession went through downtown.
Former Round Rock City Council Member Carlos Salinas, with his hand over his heart, was one of the hundreds who watched the procession pass.
“I think all of Round Rock is grieving today for officer Whites and his family,” he said. “We are here to better understand the difficulties police face doing their jobs day in and day out.”
Several of the people standing at corners and on sidewalks along the street knew Whites, including Sonia McMasters, the precinct chairwoman for the Republican Party inRound Rock.
She said that 18 years ago, Whites came to her house when she needed to file a protective order against her ex-husband. “He was the most humble guy that night; he kept on calming me,” she said. “I never forgot it.”
Round Rock Fire Department Battalion Chief James Gossard, also standing along North Mays Street, said he worked with Whites years ago.
“He was very gentle,” Gossard said, “very kind and went out of his way to be nice, putting himself in somebody else’s shoes.”