After two days of hope, Texas grieves fallen officer


STAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER

FORT WORTH -- For two days, Henry "Hank" Nava's family members prayed for a miracle at the gravely wounded Fort Worth police officer's bedside.

On Thursday, they told him goodbye.

Officer Nava, a husband and a father of two young children, died at 5:02 p.m. at Harris Methodist Fort Worth hospital, said Lt. Dean Sullivan, a police spokesman.

The 13-year veteran of the force was shot in the head Tuesday as he searched for a wanted man in northwest Fort Worth.

"Tonight, our city grieves," said Mayor Mike Moncrief, his eyes moist. "Fort Worth has lost one of its finest."

Nava's wife, Teresa, wearing a police jacket, appeared briefly before reporters with family spokeswoman Sandi Martin. Martin said the family thanked the public for its support.

"As an officer, Hank was dedicated and gung-ho," Martin said. "He had passion for this job. He had passion beyond belief to do what he did.

"His family has resolve. We are a strong family. ... And we will go on."

Sullivan, who wore a black band over his badge, said funeral arrangements were not final.

Dozens of officers were at the hospital when Nava died. Afterward, officers trickled out, some putting their arms around each other's shoulders or wiping tears from their eyes.

Police Chief Ralph Mendoza broadcast news of Nava's death to on-duty officers on a police radio channel with the declaration that officer Nava was "Signal 62" -- meaning "his unit is secure."

Nava's fellow officers -- many of whom had rarely left the hospital since Tuesday -- had prepared themselves for the moment, but it was still emotional, said Sgt. Robert Rangel, one of Nava's past supervisors.

"You pray and you never wanted to give up hope," Rangel said.

"Now you just tell yourself that at least you know that Hank isn't suffering."

Nava was shot above the left eye about 2 p.m. Tuesday as he opened a bedroom door while looking for a suspect in a mobile home.

Stephen Lance Heard, 39, was later arrested in Nava's shooting after a three-hour standoff with police.

Mendoza said Nava "was working his hardest, doing his best to ensure ... that if there was a criminal on the street, he would remove him off the street."

"I think every officer understands and realizes that there is a risk that comes with pinning on the badge," Mendoza said.

"The officers are willing to take that risk, regardless of how difficult it is for their families."

Of Teresa Nava, he said, "I think you saw a very strong young lady. It's not easy being married to a police officer."

Since Nava was shot, hundreds of officers have gathered in a large room set aside by the hospital. Pictures of Nava were posted on the walls.

One photograph showed him in New Orleans, where he and other Fort Worth officers delivered relief supplies after Hurricane Katrina.

In another, Nava is smiling at the camera during a party hosted at his home.

In many, he is wearing his Oakley sunglasses, which friends said were his trademark.

His colleagues have described Nava as a tenacious officer whom you wanted at your side in dangerous situations.

Nava started his law enforcement career at Austin's park police department in 1988. He joined the Fort Worth force in 1992.

Nava left for the Plano Police Department in 1999, but returned to the Fort Worth force after only a few months. Lee Jackson, president of the Police Officers Association, said Nava found that he missed the action of Fort Worth police work.

During his career, Nava worked as a community police officer, a school resource officer and was recently on the North Division Crime Response Team. He was at times active in the department's Explorer program, which mentors young people.

Nava had two children, 9-year-old Kayleigh and 4-year-old Justin.

"Hank was a very dedicated and loving husband and father," spokeswoman Martin said.

"He was not only a dedicated and loving husband, but he was Teresa's best friend."

Martin asked that Nava's death remind all Americans of the value of their police officers.

"As you see police cars pass you each day, please be reminded that those officers put their lives on the line daily," Martin said. "They put their family second to protect the innocent in this city and across the nation. And we so often forget that."

Martin pointed to a blue and gold ribbon affixed to her shirt. They were made with the help of other officers, she said, to honor the family and the courage of all police officers.

"Don't forget them because this day passes and another day comes upon us," Martin said.

"Remember them."

How to help

A fund for the family of police officer Henry "Hank" Nava has been established at Chase Bank. Donations can be made at any of the bank's location or at the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, 904 Collier St., Fort Worth.

The Police Department has set up a phone line for people looking for ways to help the Nava family and for those seeking information about the funeral, which had not been scheduled late Thursday. The phone line will open at 8 a.m. today. The number is (817) 392-2200.

Daughter writes to murder suspect

The 9-year-old daughter of Fort Worth police officer Hank Nava wrote to Stephen Heard, the man accused of killing her father. The family gave the letter to NBC 5. It is reproduced here as written.

*Dear, Mr. Heard,*

*I want you to know that you would not know how sad we are in this hospital even if it shot you in the head. And I hope you have a long cruel death but actually I know you will have a long cruel death. And you might have not had to get death if you just surrender. And your took my daddy away from me, my brother and mom and are loving friends, family, and loyal police officers. But I know he's going to be with GOD. And he really hurt my cousins heart because they loved my dad like there own dad. And I know you are going down and my dad is going to Heaven. And I wanted you to know that I know GOD has won victory and he has my daddy right now with him.*

*Sincerly*

*Kayleigh Nava*

 Fort Worth Star Telegram (http://www.star-telegram.com/)

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