Virginia officer killed

Steve Drew, police chief in Newport News, Va., becomes emotional while speaking about officer Katie Thyne during a news conference Friday. Officer Thyne died Thursday night after being dragged during a traffic stop.

A police officer killed during a traffic stop in Newport News, Va., Thursday night grew up in southern New Hampshire, where word of her death was met  with sorrow and admiration for her life of service.

Katherine M. “Katie” Thyne, 24, a mother of a 2-year-old daughter, is a former Navy sailor who began with the Newport News Police Department as a recruit in November 2018. She had recently been assigned to the South Precinct as a patrol officer.
 
Thyne’s death Thursday evening — after a traffic stop during which she was dragged about a block and pinned between the fleeing car and a tree — is the Newport News Police Department’s first line-of-duty death in more than 25 years.

Thyne was a 2013 graduate of Alvirne High School in Hudson.

“Losing an Alvirne Bronco who contributed so much to the high school, ROTC and the town of Hudson at such a young age is always our biggest fear and nightmare,” said Hudson Superintendent of Schools Lawrence Russell. “We send out our heartfelt condolences to her family and will always remember Katie as the great friend and student that she was.”

Alvirne High School Principal Steven Beals fondly recalled Thyne.

"My first year as principal of Alvirne was her senior year, he said. "I remember a kind and mature young lady who was passionate about JROTC. Her path out of Alvirne led her first to the Navy before becoming a police officer.

"Law enforcement is a noble service profession and I commend her service and sacrifice. We extend our thoughts and prayers to her young daughter, her partner and parents. We also extend our best wishes from Bronco Nation to all members of the Class of 2013."

Thyne was a well-liked new officer in Newport News who had just graduated from the police academy in June, said Newport News Chief Steve Drew at a somber news conference Friday.

The driver of the vehicle that dragged Thyne, identified as Vernon E. Green, 38, is charged with felony homicide, a form of second-degree murder for accidental killings that occur during other felonies. He was also charged with drug possession and felony eluding.

But Drew said more charges are likely, with Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn to be involved in those decisions.

Hudson Police Chief William Avery learned about the death of Thyne on Friday informed by staff members at the station.  He said the news was "devastating" to hear, and it highlights the risks police officers undertake everyday. 
 
Avery said a similar incident happened in Hudson about a month ago and could have come to a similar tragic end.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to the Newport News Police Department, her family and friends," he said. "We will do anything possible to support her family."

Avery said he reached out to Chief Drew in Newport News to offer his condolences  and plans to attend the services along with several members of the department, wherever they may be. He said there are town employees with close personal ties to Thyne and a couple of Hudson police officers, including the school resource officer, who knew her.

Thyne made Newport News her home after the Navy and was still in the Naval Reserve, Chief Drew said. She was a coach of a girls three-on-three basketball team for the department’s “Chief’s Challenge” league and volunteered in other ways.

“This is what she wanted to do,” said Drew, who fought back tears several times during Friday's news conference. “She wanted to be in law enforcement, and wanted to be in this community. ... She was active in this community, and you ever saw her, she would always be smiling.”

Thyne’s toddler daughter, who Drew said “looks just like” her mother, recently celebrated her second birthday. Thyne also leaves behind a mother, stepfather and brother.

Drew said the incident Thursday began when two patrol officers responded to a complaint from a resident about a drug transaction at about 6:45 p.m., and pulled Green’s car over.

A female passenger was removed from the car. Two officers — Thyne and a male officer with a couple of years on the force — were standing at the driver’s side, with the car door open, trying to get Green to step out of the car as well.

That’s when Green suddenly hit the accelerator and took off, Drew said,

Thyne, standing between the open door and the rest of the car, got caught up in the fleeing vehicle and was dragged about a block before the car crashed into a tree.

Green was arrested by other officers during a short foot pursuit.  

Union Leader correspondent Ryan Lessard contributed to this report.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020