EDITOR’S NOTE: Sgt. Justin Hayes was Sgt. Chris Brewster’s best friend in the Houston Police Department. Sgt. Hayes delivered this very moving eulogy as part of Sgt. Brewster’s Dec. 12 memorial service at Grace Church. The Badge & Gun presents this verbatim account.
I was fortunate enough to call Chris one of my best friends for 9 and ½ years. We met on the first day of the Academy, and it was just one of those things where our sense of humor, interests, goals within the department…they all just clicked. We formed lifelong bonds, along with a couple others from Class 209 – Ben Rothberg, Tyler Salina, and Steven Maciel.
After graduation, we both chose assignments to Southeast Patrol. We were partners on night shift, riding14D30N. We got into more stuff than two rookies had any business even thinking about doing, and there are a couple of 14 District Sgt’s that we probably still owe apologies to. Chris balanced me out as a police officer—especially as rookies. Where I was often impatient, Chris slowed me down. When I got complacent, he pushed me into developing new skills. Where I was quick tempered, Chris was calm and diffused situations with his goofy sense of humor.
I remember one particularly busy night, we had been getting hammered with Code 1’s and 2’s all shift, and come 3 o’clock in the morning, we were still trying to catch up and clear out calls holding in the beat. We took a Burglary report call that had been holding for like 6 hours and the homeowner was understandably upset by the time we got there.
We let the homeowner vent for a little while, and after a minute or so, I noticed Chris walking away. He had spotted a mango tree in the guy’s front yard, and in the middle of us getting yelled at, Chris walked over to inspect its leaves. Apparently he’d spotted some leaf disease on the tree, because the next thing I know, the homeowner is standing next to him and they’re both talking about tropical tree diseases and remedies to fix it. By the end of the call, Chris was making plans to return to check on the tree. That was Chris.
Another night, we on-viewed a burglary of a church in Sunnyside, right at the corner of McLean and Rosemont in 14D20’s beat. We caught the guy as he was running off with speakers he had taken from inside and got him into custody. While we’re waiting for the owner to come to the scene, we start clearing the rest of the building. I remember being all the way in the back when I hear what sounds like piano music. More than a little confused, I walk out and find Chris, singing and playing the church piano – 2 o’clock in the morning, no power on in this old, dark church, we’re supposed to be clearing and checking rooms, and there he is… playing the piano in the dark. My initial reaction was something like, “What in the world is wrong with you?” But I learned over time, it was exactly that kind of stuff that was so right about him. That was Chris.
After our time in patrol, we both transferred into the Crime Reduction Unit, where I had a front row seat to see Chris develop into an even more phenomenal proactive police officer and investigator.
We then spent all of last summer studying for the Sergeant Promotional Exam together—hours spent holed up at my house, along with Tyler Salina, the three of us creating and working through mock scenarios and practice questions. He pushed us just as hard as he pushed himself. He had a driving force to be one of the very best, but he took the time to make sure we succeeded right alongside him. That was Chris.
We promoted together in February of this year and were both able to return to Southeast for Sergeant training. Chris was beyond excited to be a street Sergeant. We had countless conversations on the kind of supervisors we thought we needed to be, and he must have told me a hundred times how much he looked forward to developing young officers. He was a leader to the end—on the street with his officers every day, working closely and offering guidance and assistance whenever, and wherever possible.
But Chris was so much more than a police officer. His interests and hobbies went far beyond what he did for a living, and he was constantly seeking out new curiosities and challenges.
He was my gardening buddy. We had frequent conversations on vegetable plants and fruit trees, soil nutrients, composting… One of the first things he did when he and Bethany bought their house was turn a large section of the backyard into a fruit tree orchard. I have a blackberry bush in my backyard that’s a cutting from one of his. It’s my son’s favorite and the one that gave out the most fruit last spring.
Chris was hilarious, with a goofy, awkward sense of humor for which he made zero apologies. He loved Christmas music, and Christmas time in general. My wife and I throw an annual Christmas party at our house, and one of my favorite parts was waiting to see what kind of crazy Christmas sweater he’d show up in. He loved good coffee and even better bourbon. He did great impressions. My personal favorite was his Kevin McAllister from “Home Alone.” At this point of each December, he would have acted out every scene from the movie.
But all of his interests paled in comparison to his love for his wife. His devotion to Bethany was inspiring to everyone around them. There was nothing he wouldn’t have done for her—he spoke of her constantly; she was his rock, and the most important thing in this world to him.
The last time I talked to Chris was last Wednesday. He called me up as he was driving around his neighborhood picking up bags of leaves that his neighbors had raked up and left out for him. He was planning to turn the leaves into compost tea for his fruit trees and gardens, and he was super excited. I’m sure that seems more than a little strange to most—a phone conversation between two guys about making compost tea out of recycled, raked up leaves. But as I’m standing here, still not quite accepting and believing most of this, I am so extremely happy that something like that was the last thing we talked about. That was Chris, and it’s things like that I’ll miss and remember him for the most. I love you brother.