The evidence – testimony of a sort – clearly proved that Chris Brewster lived his nine years of duty on the Houston Police Department with deep dedication, empathy and a memorable sense of humor. The same thing was said about the entire 32 years he spent on Earth.
As Sgt. Justin Hayes, his academy classmate and best friend on the Blue, explained, he would put his buddy at the top of the list of “phenomenal proactive police officers.”
Sgt. Hayes aptly illustrated Brewster’s devotion to duty, always with moments of tongue-in-cheek humor. His oral memoir prompted intermittent laughs from the thousands gathered to mourn the loss of Sgt. Brewster on Dec. 12 at Grace Church Houston on the Gulf Freeway, the venue of three too many memorial services for HPD’s fallen heroes.
Hayes and Brewster, both nine-year veterans, grew up in Patrol, studied together and became sergeants at the same time, and had their share of unique experiences.
‘That was Chris’
Hayes shared one (among several) about the burglary of a Sunnyside church:
“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.”
The mourners gathered were obviously moved by Hayes’ words of recollection. The laughs could be heard aloud, yet the tears hit the floor silently, reverently. Those present learned the true meaning of the words “that was Chris” in a serviced filled with worthy tributes before Brewster’s wife Bethany, his parents and his three sisters. Also present were literally hundreds of Brewster’s Houston Blue family members, HPD cadets and representatives of law enforcement agencies from the four corners of the nation.
Sgt. Brewster was the 115th Houston police officer to give his or her life in the line of duty, the first since the drowning death of Sgt. Steve Perez in the 2017 flood drenching of Hurricane Harvey. He was the second HPD officer to die on Pearl Harbor Day. Officer Timothy Abernethy was gunned down on Dec. 7, 2008. Brewster was shot to death this most recent Dec. 7.
An emotional Police Chief Art Acevedo referenced the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, citing the response of America’s “greatest generation” that fought and won World War II. Acevedo said Sgt. Brewster represented the best of his generation, supplying a radioed description of his attacker that enabled his colleagues to identify and arrest the suspect as the brave sergeant went to be with his Lord.
The suspect now lives in infamy. Brewster responded to a domestic violence call in Magnolia Park. Noting the victim’s identification of her attacker, he was shot multiple times as he emerged from his patrol car to flag down the suspect, Arturo Solis – who now faces capital murder charges.
Like each one of the speakers at the emotion-laden ceremony, Acevedo alluded to inspiration “from God above” to bring peace to the mourners and honor to a man he described as “an absolute hero.”
“When I got to the scene,” Acevedo recalled, “I got to see firsthand the excellence of Christopher Brewster – how he got that description out. I know his heart and the man above. Leadership isn’t about rank. It’s not about stripes. It’s not about bars. It’s about heart. It’s about character, and it’s about what he displayed.”
Acevedo has vowed to stay aggressive in expressing his opinions of the way gun-toting criminal-inclined individuals are often treated too leniently by judges and prosecutors as the laws being passed by elected politicians don’t seem to be tough enough on criminals.
Mayor Sylvester Turner followed up Houston’s police chief with absolute reverence and deep respect, informing those present that he had declared the day of the memorial service “Sgt. Christopher Brewster Day” in the Bayou City. Besides the written words in the official proclamation, the mayor spoke his mind. He described Brewster as making HPD better and Houstonians safer.
A Deep Believer
“We’re here not to honor the way he died, we’re here to honor the way he served and the way he lived.”
The mayor’s words and account of his fellowship with Bethany Brewster again brought to fore Chris Brewster’s natural desire not only to keep learning and teaching the ways to becoming a better police officer but also his constant curiosity about his natural habitat and all the people around him. His hobbies of music and gardening were detailed by the speakers eulogizing him.
Turner was particularly articulate in his description of Brewster’s love of growing fruit trees, maintaining the fruit orchard at his home, always seeming to add a new fruit tree as often as he could.
The mayor noted that he had learned Brewster had planted apple trees, peach trees, mango trees, pear trees, etc., etc., etc.
“Fruit trees,” Turner said, “provide a lot of shade, roots run deep and hold the land together, and they provide sustenance.”
Yes, they embody the worthy traits of Chris Brewster.
Inspiring anecdotes and descriptions lasted throughout the service. Besides Sgt. Hayes, JJ Cole, a lifelong friend of Brewster, also delivered a eulogy.
The stories and messages in both eulogies greatly moved the mourners present. With this in mind, the Badge & Gun has chosen to print verbatim copies of each of these tributes in this issue.
We just can’t leave anything out. Sgt. Hayes, we note, had another fruit-tree story bound to draw a laugh from any officer who has been confronted by an angry complainant, impatient about the time it took to answer the call.
Cole has known his friend Chris since grade school. The friendship grew deep and lasted through high school and well beyond.
Since he has known Brewster, Cole said he seemed to always be the biggest man in the room but “a teddy bear” who enjoyed wacky ways of having fun. He always seemed to take the lead, whether it was cruising around Sagemont, learning and teaching the guitar or leading a church youth group. Cole said he was initially skeptical about Chris fitting into a policing environment but quickly changed his mind when he saw the dramatic change in the discipline and attitude the young officer exemplified.
Cole thanked HPD and the Houston Police Officers Union for their helping the surviving family and friends in the wake of his great friend’s death. And then he added:
“The last thing that I’ll say about Chris is that he was a faithful follower of Jesus and he would want you to know that his life was not built on his many accomplishments, but rather on the firm foundation of Jesus alone.
“We will sorely miss Chris, his big personality, loud laugh, his humor, his unwavering loyalty, and love that he showed to all of us. I know that one day we will see him again but it’s hard to face the reality that after so many miles of doing life together, he won’t be with us anymore on this side of heaven.”
The vast domain of Grace Church was totally silent as the mourners heard Cole’s conclusion.
“Chris was one of the best of us and his life and sacrifice will not be forgotten. There’s a big hole in all of the hearts that mourn because of what a wonderful human being he was. Chris, you’re a hero to us all. I love you and I miss you, my brother and my friend.”