Eric Talley “cashed out of his 401k” to change careers in 2010, joining the Boulder Police Department while raising and home-schooling seven children with his wife.
Talley died Monday afternoon while responding to a call about shots being fired at a Boulder King Soopers grocery store. He was the first officer to arrive and was gunned down, one of 10 people killed.
Talley took his job as an officer “very seriously,” according to a statement released by his family.
Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jeremy Herko said Talley was his best friend and had lived just down the street in Aurora from him until recently, when Talley moved closer to Boulder to cut down on the hour-long commute.
They met in 2010 at the police academy at the Community College of Aurora; Talley joined the Boulder Police Department that same year.
He said Talley switched from a lucrative six-figure job in information technology to law enforcement because of a friend’s tragic death.
“That kind of propelled him into law enforcement,” Herko said. “He cashed out of his 401k.”
He said he spoke or texted with Talley weekly and even reached out to him Monday as soon as the news broke of the shooting.
“I sent him a text asking him if he was OK, and of course he never texted back,” Herko said, choking up. “That’s the life of a police officer.”
Homer Talley, Eric Talley’s father, said his son “took his job as a police officer very seriously,” according to a statement released to broadcast media.
But more than anything, Homer Talley told The New York Times, his son loved his family — the youngest child is 7 years old and the oldest 20. Herko said his friend was a “devout Catholic” and home-schooled his children with the help of his wife.
Homer Talley told The New York Times that his son was born in Houston and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“He wanted to be a servant,” he told the newspaper. “He wanted to serve people. And you know, all kids want to be a policeman, and in many ways, he was a big kid.”
Talley was also a woodworker and loved playing board games, Herko said.
“They were good, quality people,” Herko said of Talley and his family.
On Twitter, a woman who identified herself as Talley’s younger sister posted about how heartbroken she was.
“I cannot explain how beautiful he was and what a devastating loss this is to so many. Fly high my sweet brother. You always wanted to be a pilot (damn color blindness). Soar,” she wrote.
Officer Eric Talley is my big brother. He died today in the Boulder shooting. My heart is broken. I cannot explain how beautiful he was and what a devastating loss this is to so many. Fly high my sweet brother. You always wanted to be a pilot (damn color blindness). Soar. pic.twitter.com/tgt2DxPsqz
— Kirstin (@Roozersmom) March 23, 2021
A procession of police and emergency vehicles escorted Talley’s body away from the store on Monday night. Less than 24 hours later, a steady stream of motorists drove by the Boulder Police headquarters to look at a flower-draped police vehicle that was parked in front of the building. Many people got out to pay their respects.
Christopher Clack, and his wife Leah, said they had been helped by Talley when they called police over a neighbor dispute at their Martin Acres home in south Boulder.
“He was just a great guy,“ Christopher Clack said. “You could tell why he got into it.”
Clack said either he or his wife frequented the King Soopers on Table Mesa practically every day.
“He was protecting his neighborhood,“ he said.
David Zanca wiped away tears as he stood looking at the makeshift memorial that sprouted ever more bright colors as people dropped off bouquets of flowers.
“I wish things like this could unite us,“ said Zanca, whose son attends the University of Colorado. “I think the officer would want that. He was a hero.”
Talley treated all people as real human beings, said Edwin Hurwitz, a defense and immigration lawyer in Boulder who spent just a single night with Talley 10 years ago on a police ride-along as part of his law school curriculum.
He said they established an immediate kinship.
Hurwitz, a professional musician, had been playing electric bass in a band when he decided to change course in his career and become an attorney. It tracked with Talley’s decision to leave his tech job in mid-stride and become a cop.
“We were both in a part of our careers where we were really optimistic,” Hurwitz said.
Hurwitz said he had always held a “healthy skepticism” of police, but Talley shattered those preconceptions by interacting with some folks in Boulder’s homeless population — in particular a man named Birdman — with respect and grace.
“A lot of people think the police hate the homeless and you could tell he really knew Birdman and had a relationship with him,” Hurwitz said. “He was very firm and yet respectful and that went counter to what you read about cops, especially in the left-wing press.”
Later, he said, Talley was assigned as the police liaison to Boulder’s Martin Acres neighborhood, where the King Soopers is. Hurwitz, who lives in Martin Acres, said he regretted not looking Talley up and reconnecting with him.
“Officers catch a lot of hate, but Officer Talley was a good human being,” Hurwitz wrote on Facebook. “My heart goes out to his family, friends, and colleagues.
According to the family’s statement, Talley was training to work as a drone operator because, his father said, he didn’t want his family to have to go through such a situation. Herko said Talley would often consult with him about what the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office was doing with drones.
Herko also said he used to have a key to Talley’s house and once changed out the batteries in his alarm system when it went off when Talley was away on vacation. He said his friend bought a 15-passenger van so that he could take his large family on vacations.
Talley also was remembered as someone who cared for others — human and animal. In 2013, Talley was recognized by fellow officers for wading calf-deep into water to try and rescue a family of ducks that found themselves trapped in a drainage ditch, according to the Boulder Daily Camera.