KCBD Investigates End of Watch: Fallen Texas Tech police officer’s widow helps hundreds through foundation

Published: Oct. 12, 2023 at 11:12 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Carmen and Floyd East met when they were just kids.

As they grew older, their friendship blossomed into a romance and before they knew it, they were high school sweethearts.

Carmen said she fell for Floyd’s sense of humor and his green eyes.

“He was right there at every punch line,” Carmen said.

She said if there was a costume in the vicinity, Floyd was sure to find it and try it on.

“He would tell me, ‘Okay, take a picture of me with this one. Now, take a picture of me with this one,’” Carmen said.

They lost touch after school, but as fate would have it, years later, they reconnected. Carmen had two daughters of her own and Floyd was just what they needed to complete their family.

After Floyd married his lifelong love, he decided to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a police officer. In the Summer of 2017, he joined the Texas Tech Police Department.

“He was very excited. He loved the fact that he was law enforcement now and wore that badge with a lot of pride,” Carmen said.

In October 2017, Carmen traveled to Ireland for work.

She said she received a call at 4 a.m. from her best friend asking if she had spoken to Floyd.

“I go, ‘No, I haven’t. I heard from him before I went to sleep. We said goodnight and that we love each other and that was it,’ and she said, ‘Well babe, there is something that has happened at Texas Tech and there’s an officer who is down.’ I said, ‘Look, no news is good news. Floyd had I have talked about this. A lot of officer’s spouses can tell you that conversations go on that if you don’t hear from me, no news is good news,’” Carmen said.

Carmen said as soon as those words came out of her mouth, the phone in her hotel began to ring.

When she answered, it was the chief of police.

“He said, ‘Officer Floyd East Junior has passed away. I stayed quiet and then I said, ‘Is he okay? And then he said, ‘Carmen, Officer Floyd East Junior has passed away,’” Carmen said.

Carmen was three hours from the nearest airport and more than 4,700 miles away from home. It would take 16 hours and three flights before she could get home and hug her girls.

Carmen said when she sat down on the plane, it seemed like everyone was watching the same channel.

“Those seats had TVs on them and it was CNN. I’ll never forget it. It was showing what was happening in Lubbock,” Carmen said.

Carmen said the tears began to fall as a flight attendant approached her.

“She said, ‘I don’t mean to pry, but are you okay?’ I couldn’t speak and I was just pointing to the TV and all that came out was, ‘My husband,’” Carmen said.

Finally, Carmen made it home.

“All three of us fell to the floor there in front of the door, and I said, ‘We are going to be okay,’” Carmen said.

As she covered her children with love, the law enforcement community covered her.

“I didn’t expect we were going to get all of this help from the thin blue line. We were able to pay our electricity bill and the mortgage, because of their help. I said, ‘I have to give that help as well,’” Carmen said.

That is when Texas635 was born. The foundation provides financial and emotional support for law enforcement families who have lost a loved one in the line of duty.

It is a mission that has expanded over the last several years.

“A lot of officers were coming up to us secretly saying, ‘That officer over there, he is not doing very well,’” Carmen said.

Now, Texas635 offers retreats for law enforcement officers where they are surrounded by others who can relate. Therapists and counselors are also available.

“We have helped 250 officers so far. I know we are small and we want to stay small because we give our officers 100 percent of our attention and they feel it, and it works,” Carmen said.

It is working for Carmen, too.

“If I wasn’t doing this, I don’t think I would be doing okay,” Carmen said.

Carmen said this new sense of purpose has helped remove some of the resentment in her heart.

“For the work that I do, that anger, I can’t have it. So, I have to have peace in my own heart and that is what I teach my daughters as well and that is what to each everybody who comes through our program,” Carmen said.

Texas635 will host a retreat in Ruidoso, New Mexico on Oct. 19, 2023.

Carmen said they are in need of monetary donations so she can purchase food to cook for the officers while they are there.

If you would like to help, click here.

The death of Floyd East Junior prompted university officials to make security changes to campus.

The Texas Tech Police Department now has new interview rooms and perimeter fencing.

There is now a substation in the Student Union Building and more exterior cameras around campus.

The university has also launched the Raider Safety Campaign, which provides a single point of access for campus safety-related resources.

The website includes information on how to file a student of concern report.

Once a concern is filed, someone from the university will call the concerned student within the next business day.

For non-emergency police assistance, contact TTU police at 806-742-3931.