When gunshots rang out on the night of Feb. 7, 2018, at the Breckenridge Point Apartments in northeast Richardson, the bullet not only pierced the neck of 13-year Richardson PD veteran Officer David Sherrard, it also shattered the lives of many and the sense of safety in the community. However, citizens and police officials have coalesced together to help rebuild and bring the community back together.
Part of the healing process began in the last session of the Texas Legislature, when State Rep. Jeff Leach put forward House Bill 540 – a proposal to rename the section of U.S. Highway 75 that stretches from President George Bush Turnpike to the northern edge of the city, near Interstate 635. Now the slow process of government legislation is beginning to come to fruition. Though officially the name of the road has been changed to Officer David Sherrard Memorial Highway, the work of making sure people know about it continues.
Five days ago, the Richardson Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association, Inc. (RCPAAA) posted a fundraiser on GoFundMe.com asking for donations to purchase the signage needed to rename the highway. Though the estimated price from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for the two signs was high, more than $24,000, the community has shown its ability to come together, raising thousands within the first 24 hours of the fundraiser going live online.
"It seems to be a cross-section to me. We’ve had people, not only fellow officers who want to honor their comrade, their buddy, their friend, but we’ve had people from the business community, people from neighborhood associations...," said Bill Rodgers, RCPAAA president.
One story exemplifies the spirit of giving. Rodgers said there was one family that wanted to donate $50 to the campaign; however, when their children heard about what they were doing, they wanted to get involved as well. They went door-to-door asking neighbors for spare change to donate, eventually leading to an additional $8 to the fund.
"We wanted this to be a community-based fundraiser, so that when we pass on Central and we see these big, brown signs that you can think to yourself, 'I was part of that,'" Rodgers said. "This is our community and we are honoring David Sherrard with this sign in his memory."
The 37-year-old officer's life ended that February night, shortly after responding to a disturbance call around 7 p.m. Arriving on the scene, officers found 30-year-old Rene Gamez wounded. They stopped to help him, before proceeding to the apartment, where the fatal shot was fired by Brandon McCall, 26, who was taken into custody after a standoff with local SWAT. McCall was indicted on nine charges related to the deaths of Gamez and Sherrard as well as related assault charges. Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis has submitted notice to authorities that he will be seeking the death penalty in McCall's case.
Sherrard was the first officer to lose his life in the line of duty in the 63-year history of the Richardson Police Department, leaving behind a wife and two children. Friends of his describe him as "fun," "family-oriented" and "dedicated."
Rodgers said the shooting was a shock. According to data from CityRating.com, crime in Richardson is below both the state and national averages, in addition to an overall downward trend in crime through the last decade. Rodgers said in the wake of the shooting, the community and the police department found a mutual appreciation for the balance of power and sacrifice that policing entails.
"The community has been such a blessing to our family," said Nicole Sherrard, David's wife. "He died doing what he wanted to do, and that's protect and serve the community. My heart is overjoyed that he will forever be remembered as the hero he was, because of the highway being named after him... [drivers] will look up his name and see how selfless and brave he was when he entered that apartment."
In total, the GoFundMe campaign to purchase signage for the renamed stretch of road has raised $16,391 as of Wednesday afternoon. Leach stipulated in the passage of H.B. 540 that no public money would be used in the renaming process, which includes purchasing signs to place at both ends of the renamed section of highway.
Rodgers said he plans to end the fundraiser once it has reached its $24,169 goal. He said any extra money will be used in a similar way, to honor Sherrard and the sacrifice he made. The construction of a new police headquarters is being built in Richardson, which will add about 80,000 square feet of new space, facilities and other amenities to the department. The new facility will also include a space reserved for Sherrard's memory – a freestanding statue titled "Radiant Shield" will be placed near the entrance of the building for both residents and fellow officers to honor him.
"It will be something that we can all be proud of," Rodgers said. "[Residents] will see that and remember [Sherrard]."
In addition to the GoFundMe campaign, the RCPAAA was out soliciting donations at Thursday's Richardson Family Fourth Celebration at Breckenridge Park. Rodgers said the campaign has largely spread organically, from one person to the next both in-person and via social media.
"[He was] absolutely the best man on earth," Nicole said. "I miss him every day."