HPD Chief Mark McMurray remembers a fallen hero

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - It's been almost two weeks since a STAC agent was shot and killed during a drug bust operation, but for his fellow agents and officers, the pain is just as fresh.

On December 6, Huntsville Police Officer Billy Clardy III was rushed to Huntsville Hospital where he died. Agent Clardy gave his life serving and protecting the community he loved, which was the same city where he grew up and called home. The 48-year-old also served our country in the military.

Billy Clardy was not your average officer on the street. That's how Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray described this fallen hero.

The day after Clardy died in the line of duty, Chief McMurray held a news conference. At the conference, McMurray said, "We're wounded, we're hurting, but we will get through this."

"Some of us need our family. Some of us depend on each other," said Chief McMurray. "The STAC team, they needed some assistance so they're going to have to... they go through what's called critical instant debriefing where they actually talk about the situation as it occurred."

A team from Texas volunteered to come to talk to officers. The city provided a mental health expert, and a team within the department worked with Clardy's fellow STAC agents.

"Time doesn't remove these types of wounds, but they will heal. And you do have lessons learned and that's what we're looking for in the weeks to come," explained McMurray. "We'll go over lessons learned and can we as a department do anything to make our work environment safer for these officers. And that's what we're looking at."

Tough days lay ahead as well. Next year, Clardy's name will be added to two police memorials in Huntsville. One is in front of HPD headquarters on Wheeler Avenue and one on the south side of the Courthouse Square in downtown. It will also be added to a memorial in Washington, D.C.

McMurray said it's not going to be easy.

"Right, especially when you realize his dad's name is right next to his own, so yeah, tough times," said McMurray.

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This isn't the first time that the department has gone through losing one of their own.

"Yeah, about the last 12, 13 years now, we've had four officers pass away on duty," said the chief. "So, three of them have been killed and one of them died on duty as the result of a car crash, so yeah, burying your own police officers is tough, tough on us."

It is something they hope never happens, but it does. The chief and his department stand ready to respond.

"We actually have a written directive that completely lays out every task to be performed in the line of duty death. And as bad as that sounds, that is what we do," said McMurray. "We're front line fighters in the war against crime. It's not that we expect it. It's not that we voluntarily lay our lives down, we train very hard to never let this happen but we realize that it does happen."

And when it did, they focused on helping Clardy's family.

"The very first working day after Agent Clardy was killed, the very first workday, we had his widow sitting down at HR talking to the benefits coordinator and getting her set up with insurance and benefits and walking her through the process," said  Clardy.

They really do take care of their own.

"Well, we try. We try. Of course, you see the memorial out front. It's a constant reminder when you come to this building that there are officers who gave that," said McMurray. "We all give a little bit, but every once in a while some of us give it all."

And Billy Clardy gave it all.

"He did," said McMurray.

Support has poured in for the department and the Clardy family from not only here at home but across the country. Donations can still be made to Billy Clardy Memorial Fund at Redstone Federal Credit Union and the Huntsville Police Citizens Foundation.