Tucker Blakely is why I do what I have been doing for five years. He is the epitome of an Our Town Hero. This brave young hero placed himself in harm’s way, his life on that thin blue line. Without hesitation. It was his duty. He was just 29, shot while answering the call that every law enforcement professional absolutely fears the most – a domestic violence call.
No more hugs from the love of her life “Tuck” – as wife Katarina called him. Married for seven years, not one of us has a clue what she is feeling and enduring. Tuck will miss the years of sheer joy of helping their 5-year-old son, Hendrik, become a man like his Daddy.
So much has been lost by so many … and so quickly.
Less than 24 hours after shots were fired at a home in Solway late Sunday night, this deputy for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office died. His family and his wife’s family are in shock, devastated and attempting to deal with his unimaginable killing. His KCSO family is shocked, from Sheriff Tom Spangler right down the roster. No more roll calls for Tucker. They all know too well it could have been one of them.
These officers do not just live day-to-day in uniform. They live minute-by-minute. They never know what can happen.
Respect them. Their jobs for our community are jobs 99.9% of us to do not want to do. Celebrate them.
This is the 250th “Our Town Hero” piece I’ve written since the first week of November 2018 for Sandra Clark’s KnoxTNToday.com news and features website.
It has been a labor of love, putting it mildly. Long interviews have covered the work and lives of the men and women of the KCSO, the Knoxville Police Department, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, our firefighters at the Knoxville Fire Department and Rural Metro Fire, Knox County Rescue, officers and deputies at the sheriff’s offices in Anderson, Blount and Loudon counties and, of late, the Tennessee Department of Transportation HELP Truck unit.
Emergency and professional responders all. And every agency listed has at some point mourned the loss of a life or lives of fellow pros while on duty. It comes with the territory. It’s part of the job, they say. The territory and the job are damned dangerous.
Everyone who saw Tucker Blakely before and during his shift on yesterday a week ago must now rely on memories … his smile, his laugh, his upbeat personality, his talents, his strong faith. High school friends at Powell High have memories of his playing the tenor saxophone in the band and his wife the clarinet. He was a magnet for his classmates. Great personality.
My years as a U.S. Army MP (Military Police) taught me a great deal. First and foremost, there is very little in common between civilian and military policing. Different worlds. Their world, then and now, is far more dangerous and complicated than the military world. There is one major issue we had in common – working domestic violence calls. They were rife during the Vietnam War years – both on and off bases.
My deep respect for the men and women wearing the badge made working on these Hero stories an easy decision. The one challenge was to have these professionals talk about themselves and what and why they do this work. They’re humble souls. Most do not enjoy calling attention to themselves. A few have declined interviews … and I respect their decisions.
When the first alert came my way that a deputy had been shot late Sunday night in Solway, my first thought was: “It’s a domestic.” I hoped that it was otherwise. Late at night is prime time for domestic crime. The man who shot Tucker was killed by KCSO bullets. No solace. The empty feeling remains. My feelings for his wife, son, family members, friends and his KCSO family are deep. This nightmare, as his brother Ty called it, won’t end anytime soon.
This young man served as a combat medic in the U.S. Army Reserve after graduating from East Tennessee State University. He worked for a year in the KCSO Detention Center and then moved to patrol. This past week would have been a first for him – he was about to start K-9 school with his dog, Enoch. And he was an organ donor.
This is a tribute from KCSO & E-911 Supervisor Dawn Van Buren (it’s her voice) for this last call. Blakely Last Call
People are using these words to describe Deputy Blakely – caring, loving, thoughtful and calm, smart, funny and always controlling his temper.
- Tucker Blakely. Tuck.
- A man of God, reared in the church, his life celebrated in the church.
- A wonderful son.
- A happy, loving husband and Dad so proud of his family.
- A little brother.
- A friend’s friend.
- A public servant.
- A veteran.
- A HERO!
Echo 19 is 10-7 (end of shift).
Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia. If you have someone you think we should consider featuring, please email him at the link with his name or text him at 865-659-3562.