After a tragedy, communities have a way of coming together. The Winchester community was no different after the death of Officer Hunter Edwards.
The four-year veteran of the force died after a car accident on November 24, 2018, while on his way to answer a call. In the months since, community members have stepped up to show their appreciation for Edwards, 30, the Winchester Police Department and Edwards’ family.
First Night Winchester, the group behind many of the New Year festivities in the city, was in the process of creating messages of hope for the community when they learned of the accident. Christine Germeyer, the executive director of First Night Winchester, said the group was inviting residents to write inspirational messages on canvases, and decided to give one to the police department to let officers know the community was thinking of them.
“Our organization, like so many others, thought, ‘what can we do, how can we show the Winchester Police Department that we care, that we feel your pain, that we empathize with you?’“
The organization plans to present additional canvases to other special interest groups in the city, and will give a second canvas full of positive notes to the department.
Others turned their attention to Edwards’ family – his wife, Tara, and young son, Landon.
Law enforcement officers in Winchester and beyond held fundraisers. Winchester Police Officer Kate Bracy teamed up with the company Barbells and Badges to design a shirt within the company’s “Honor a Hero“ project. The shirts sold quickly, raising thousands of dollars in the first few days.
“For me, it was just, I knew I needed something more to hold on to when it came to Hunter,“ Bracy said in an early December interview. “I just felt that maybe other people had the exact same feeling that I did.“
Others unaffiliated with the department organized fundraisers, as well.
The mission of the Strength and Honor Motorcycle Club is to support the families of fallen first responders and veterans. The Stonewall chapter did so by raising $4,055 for the Edwards’ family, primarily by selling custom poker chips and holding a benefit ride through Frederick County, Va., and Winchester.
“We needed to do something,“ said Bill Collins, the chapter’s sergeant at arms and an investigator with the Strasburg Police Department. “Law enforcement is a close-knit family, no matter where we’re at.“
Even local business owners did what they could to honor Edwards’ memory.
Shortly after the accident, Anthony’s Pizza in Winchester engraved Edwards’ name and badge number alongside other fallen first responders in the restaurant, where Edwards was a regular. The restaurant’s owner, Claudio Buono, said it was a small way his team could recognize the sacrifices Edwards made.
Buono even invited the Edwards family and the police department to the restaurant after the viewing, feeding dozens for free.
“We had a table set up where he sat, and we decorated so his wife sat at the table where he sat. Matter of fact, she ate what he ate,“ Buono said. “It was special. We had, like, most of the police officers and everyone that’s in service come after the viewing. They were all here. We fed them, and we talked about things, about Hunter.“
While the community remembers Officer Edwards, there’s no forgetting for his family. Family and close friends declined to be interviewed on camera, but several submitted written statements to WDVM 25.
Edwards’ wife, Tara, wrote the following:
“Grief is something nobody prepares you for. One of the hardest grieving moments throughout this process, I would have to say, is answering Landon’s questions or hearing him talk about it. He will ask me, ‘why do other kids have their daddy and mine is an angel?’ Sometimes, he will become very emotional. When you ask him what’s bothering him, he will start to cry. I hold him in my arms, and say it’s going to be okay. He replies, ‘I want my daddy, it’s not the same.’“
Now, Tara said the only thing she can do is share stories of Hunter and how he lived.
To read the eulogies of Hunter Edwards written by his friends Travis Medina, Bryan DerryBerry, and Mike Upham, click here.
[LISTEN: FULL AUDIO STATEMENT OF TARA EDWARDS]