Remembering Officer East: The man behind the badge

Remembering Officer East: The man behind the badge

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Officer James Oswalt, or Ozzie as his friends and family call him, loves to laugh.

“I was hired on April Fool’s Day so I tell everybody this is the longest running April Fool’s joke, or they really like me,” Oswalt said.

Oswalt said he found a friend in fellow Texas Tech Police Officer Floyd East Junior, who loved laughing and making others laugh just as much as he did.

“Floyd and I were both older officers,” Oswalt said. “We both had always wanted to be police officers.”

That dream came true for East in the summer of 2017, when he began working as a police officer at Texas Tech University.

“When he got hired here, he got put on our shift. Our shift was from 2 p.m. to midnight. He was an awesome officer and a good friend to work with,” Oswalt said.

“He married the love of his life and she had two girls. It was just neat listening to him, the passion he had for his family, the love he had for those girls,” Oswalt said.

While Ozzie said they did not talk much about the dangers of the job, they knew the ultimate sacrifice could come at any minute.

“It’s in the back of our heads that something could go wrong, something could happen. He was a Christian and he and I had talked before. Whenever God is ready to call us home, He will call us home,” Oswalt said. “Deep down inside, we know it’s a reality. We say our prayers and we do what we need to do.”

That moment came on October 9, 2017 when East was shot and killed at the Texas Tech University Police Department.

As the investigation began, so did the outpouring of support.

The following night, hundreds gathered at Memorial Circle for a vigil, honoring the life of Officer East.

“The faculty, the staff, the students, just seeing them and the support and love they had that night was awesome,” Oswalt said.

As Ozzie continues to heal, he has worked to build a relationship with East’s family to ensure they know the department will always be there to support them.

“When the chief asked me if I would be willing to be the liaison officer for them, I jumped at the chance. It is something I know God has put me in the right place at the right time so many times,” Oswalt said.

Despite East’s family’s incredible loss, Ozzie said they still have so much love to share.

“All of the things they have been through, they are not bitter. They still have a lot of love for people,” Oswalt said.

While Ozzie does not know what tomorrow will bring, he knows who holds tomorrow.

“There’s never been a doubt in my mind that God wasn’t with me that night and now, and I know up through the trial and everything, He is going to be there,” Oswalt said.

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