‘She was full of life’: Newport News Police chief remembers fallen officer

The parking lot was packed on a rainy, overcast Friday morning, where at least 80 officers gathered at the Newport News Police Department headquarters to hear an update about one of their own: Officer Katie Thyne, who died in the line of duty Thursday.

The room at headquarters was dark and while there was chatter among some of the attendees.

Most were silent and visibly upset.

Several members from other city agencies were in attendance, including Mayor McKingley Price, Newport News Sheriff Gabe Morgan, sheriff’s deputies and members of the Newport News Fire Department.

“This is probably one of the things mayors fear addressing the public like this,” Price said. “The community wants you to know we have your support and your back.”

Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew gave a recap of the events leading up to Thyne’s death. She’s been with the department since 2018.

She began the Newport News Police Training Academy on Jan. 24, 2019 and graduated on June 28, 2019. Following graduation she was assigned to South Precinct Watch II.

RELATED STORY: Newport News Police officer killed after being dragged by car during traffic stop

Thyne, a Navy reservist, was 24 years old. Drew said she left behind a 2-year-old daughter and a loving partner.

Thyne, who was originally from New Hampshire, also left behind her mother, brother, stepfather.

Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew talks about Katherine Thyne, an officer who died on Thursday responding to a traffic stop. (WYDaily/ Julia Marsigliano)
Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew talks about Katherine Thyne, an officer who died on Thursday responding to a traffic stop. (WYDaily/ Julia Marsigliano)

Drew teared up while talking about Thyne.

Thyne’s portrait along with a photo with Drew was projected onto a screen for the remainder of the news conference Friday.

He noted she was not with the department a long time but described Thyne as “full of life,” adding she was very active in the community and coached one of the basketball teams at the Boys & Girls Club.

“She was always smiling,” Drew said. “She is and will always be a valued member of this department.”

“Officer Thyne, Katie, was a true hero and she served this community,” he added.

Drew thanked other law enforcement agencies who reached out and sent their condolences and support after Thyne’s death.

“I think it is evident by the individuals in this room how much the department cares about our community and each other,” Drew said. “We will lean on each other, we will lean on our community, faith leaders, city administration.”

He said there will be counseling, some mandatory, and noted it’s okay to cry.

There are no details yet on the memorial service — Drew said he would keep the community informed.

“It does not matter what branch or what uniform you wear,” Drew said. “We do not take this job to become rich, we take it because we care.”

“I love you guys––We will get through this together as a family.”

The news conference closed with remarks from Price and a prayer from the department’s chaplain.

At least 80 police officers and members of law enforcement gathered at the Newport News Police Department headquarters Friday morning. (WYDaily/ Julia Marsigliano)
At least 80 police officers and members of law enforcement gathered at the Newport News Police Department headquarters Friday morning. (WYDaily/ Julia Marsigliano)

What happened

On Thursday at approximately 6:47 p.m. Thyne and another officer responded to a drug complaint at the 1400 block of 16th Street, Drew said.

Two people were in the vehicle, the passenger Ivy Toinette Runnels, 38, of the 700 block of Hailfax Avenue in Hampton and the driver, Vernon Evander Green II, 38, of the 1300 block of 16 Street in Newport News.

Drew said there was a “strong odor” and an interaction at the vehicle, where Runnels was removed from the vehicle and both officers opened the driver’s side door — they asked Green to step out. (Story continues below the mug shots).1 of 2  

Green drove away, dragging Thyne for a block before hitting a tree, “where she was pinned between that door and the tree,” Drew said.

Thyne was taken to Sentara General Hospital in Norfolk where she later died from her injuries.

“They did everything they possibly could,” Drew said.

Runnels is charged with possession of marijuana. Green is charged with murder:homicide, possession of marijuana and disregard/elude law enforcement.

Drew said the incident remains under investigation and the department is reviewing body camera footage of the traffic stop.

Larry Douglas Bland was the last officer killed in the line of duty (1994), according to the city’s fallen officer list — “At the age of 48, Officer Bland was shot and killed by a suspect he had placed in the back of his patrol car during a traffic stop.”

Drew said they have received an outpouring of support from the community. People have also been asking about making donations. The Newport News Police Foundation has set up a link on their website.

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