HOUSTON – The Nassau Bay police officer who was killed during a traffic stop last week was laid to rest Wednesday.
Loved ones, state and local leaders and members of law enforcement gathered to honor Nassau Bay police Sgt. Kaila Sullivan. They described Sullivan as a relaxed, confident and dedicated officer who loved to serve and protect her community. She spent nearly 20 years in the field, including 16 years with the Nassau Bay Police Department.
Sullivan was killed on Dec. 10 when the suspect she was trying to apprehend, got away, jumped into a vehicle and ran her over, officials said. After a two-day manhunt, the suspect, later identified as Tavores Henderson, was arrested and charged with capital murder.
Honoring Sullivan’s life
A few hundred people gathered at the Grace Church in southeast Houston, the same church where slain Houston police Sgt. Christopher Brewster’s funeral was held earlier this month. They shared emotional and funny stories about Sullivan.
Her casket, draped with an American flag, stood at the front of the stage decorated with lit Christmas trees.
Jared Sullivan, the officer’s younger brother, described their relationship like the Lion King’s Nala and Simba: always wrestling and horsing around but his sister always had the upper hand.
“The odds were never in my favor, but we had a blast doing it,” Jared Sullivan said. “No matter what, she had my back.”
He said Kaila Sullivan was his role model. She taught him many things, including how to dress and to dance.
The fallen officer had a passion for serving and protecting, which drove her to become a police officer, he said. Her leadership also influenced him to serve, as well. He is a retired Army veteran stationed in San Antonio.
“(Kaila) was a north star to all those who met her,” he said. “But most importantly, she taught us how to love. This world needs more people like Sgt. Kaila Sullivan.”
More than an officer
Nassau Bay police Chief Tim Cromie said Sgt. Sullivan was larger than life. He first thanked the Sullivan family for sharing her with the department.
Cromie said she strived to excel at her job. She was a bike patrol instructor, telecommunicator, a licensed police instructor, a mental health officer, a field training officer, a crime prevention inspector and a Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) instructor. She had earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and was working on her master’s degree, he said.
Not only an accomplished police officer, Kaila Sullivan was also a wife, a mother, a friend and an entertainer, Cromie said. She sang, rapped, played the guitar, rode horses and drove “Big Nasty,” a monster-like truck with mud tires and LED lights.
Many speakers expressed the fallen sergeant’s love for her wife, Tracey, and her son, Kaden.
Cromie recalled a recent trip when Kaila Sullivan and her son went hiking in the mountains. The two trekked about eight miles a day. When she came back, Kaila Sullivan told Cromie she was sore from trying to keep up with her son.
“It is funny how you think you know someone,” he said. “Only to find out that there is much to them. Few people probably knew the whole person, and those who did are the lucky ones. I wish I would have gotten to know Kaila Sullivan better in addition to Sergeant Sullivan.”
The fallen officer cared about the people that she served dearly, Cromie said.
One of the mental health patients in Nassau Bay that the officers deal with frequently and whose interactions with police can be heated called the station this week, Cromie said. He expressed his sorrow for the officer’s death, Cromie said. He said he interacted with Kaila Sullivan on several occasions, and she was always patient and kind with him.
“That was the kind of officer she was,” Cromie said.
‘Seared in our hearts’
Nassau Bay Mayor Mark Denman recalled the community Kaila Sullivan served, a town of 4,500 bordered by water on three sides.
"Kaila was one of the best," Denman said. "She was a peace officer's peace officer."
Sullivan was the first line-of-duty death in the history of Nassau Bay.
“Her memory is forever seared in our hearts,” Denman said.
The city plans to memorialize her permanently, Denman said, but he also declared Dec. 29, which would have been Kaila Sullivan’s anniversary date of service with the Nassau Bay Police Department, as Kaila Sullivan day in the city.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick presented a folded state flag to the Sullivan family during the rendering of honors outside Grace Church. Her hat was also given to the family.
Final ride through Nassau Bay
Aboard a motorcycle sidecar, the fallen sergeant’s casket was escorted by Harris County Sheriff’s Office motorcycle deputies to Nassau Bay.
Sullivan loved riding motorcycles and was a member of the Sisters Eternal Women's Motorcycle Club. Many members of the club attended her funeral.
People lined the streets and saluted as the procession rode through the coastal city before Sullivan headed to her final resting place.
WATCH: Full funeral service for Sgt. Kaila Sullivan