KPD’s Riley Lackey: Cheryl Koski’s new hero

Tom KingOur Town Heroes

Cheryl Koski will never forget Riley Lackey’s name. Call him a hero. Or the man of the hour. When she needed help – quickly – Riley Lackey was there, knocking on her door.

Koski, 66, lives alone in West Knoxville. She suffers from neuropathy and is diabetic. On Thursday, January 18, in the middle of our eight-day snow and ice storm, she realized she was almost out of food. “I had three meals left, period,” she said. “I knew I could not get to the store.”

Her home is atop a long steep hill. The snow and ice made it impassable. Koski began dialing for help – the Love Kitchen, Mobile Meals, the 311 and 211 numbers the city of Knoxville makes available. No help from anyone. So, she called 911. That worked.

Riley Lackey

Less than an hour later, at approximately 4 p.m., Knoxville Police Department (KPD) Officer Riley Lackey knocked on her door. After introductions and asking what she needed, she said “food.” Lackey asked what kind of foods. “We’re going grocery shopping for you,” he said. And off they went.

Koski asked for a large frozen Supreme pizza, a few frozen meals and a list of other groceries. “In about 45 minutes they knocked on the door again and he (Lackey) got everything I wanted. I was amazed. I told him I didn’t have any cash, just some pocket change or I could write him a check, she said. “He said he didn’t want a check or anything, to stay safe and warm inside and call if I had any problems. He paid for all of my groceries.”

She was a technical writer and editor, a professor at LSU.

After Lackey left, she went to X (formerly Twitter) and wrote for all to see: “Officer Lackey is amazing! During the storm I was close to running out of food. I am 66 years old and diabetic. He actually went to the grocery store to pick up groceries for me! I am grateful for Officer Lackey, and I hope the KPD honors him in some way.”

Lackey, only 24, in his fourth year at KPD, is a Knox County native from Mascot, a 2017 Carter High School graduate. He has an associate degree in social work from Pellissippi State Community College and is working on a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Penn Foster College in Arizona. He does have a family link to KPD – his late grandfather, John Lackey, was one KPD’s first K9 officers.

Riley began realizing while he was working on his degree in social work that police work encompasses much of what he was learning. “A lot of what we do is related to social work and police work seemed like a good fit for me.” After applying to KPD, he waited for a year before being hired and he began the Police Academy in 2021.

“People do not realize, and at first I didn’t either, how many different things police officers do every day. The crime, the wrecks, the fatalities, shootings, helping people with minor issues, cars broken down, community interactions. It’s hard to name them all,” Lackey said. “We don’t just ride around.”  He also is the KPD liaison officer for the Sequoyah Hills Homeowners Association and enjoys it. “It is good to hear from the people we represent and it’s a rarity really. I’m learning their issues. I meet with them monthly. Great interaction.”

This week he is in Oak Ridge, training to be a field training officer for new recruits who graduated from the most recent police academy. This is a major part of their training before being on patrol solo.

In 2023, his beat partner was in an officer-involved shooting. “Yep, it rattled me some, kinda scary. Part of the job. My partner fired one shot and that ended the situation,” he said. Anything involving kids is emotional, he said, adding “It’s hard to get used to seeing fatalities in wrecks.”

We asked Lackey to describe Officer Lackey. “I’m empathetic. I’m a good listener. I was 21 when I started with no real-life experience. It was tough to tell a grown man or woman that they have to listen to a young officer like me and do what I say. Honesty is major for me and I take professionalism very seriously.”

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.


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