PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - It's been one year since Pikeville Police Officer Scotty Hamilton died, and his close-knit community still mourns the loss of a man they said loved life and was a friend to all.
Hamilton was on patrol with a state trooper in the Hurricane Creek area the evening of March 13, 2018. The two were separated when the trooper heard gunshots. Shortly after, the trooper found Hamilton with a fatal gunshot wound.
Almost two days later, police arrested John Russell Hall, who was later charged with Hamilton's murder. Nearly a year later, on Dec. 19, 2019, Hall pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life without parole.
Shortly after Hamilton's death, his fellow law enforcement officers said this would be something that would stick with the Pikeville community and officers nationwide. They were right. Just last night, a 10-year-old boy in Orlando, Florida, ran a 5k in Hamilton's memory.
The community rallied around Hamilton's widow and infant daughter in the weeks and months following the heartbreaking day. Some people set up a trust fund for Hamilton's daughter. Businesses sold "Thin Blue Line" t-shirts honoring the fallen officer to raise funds for his family. Large crowds held candlelight vigils to pay their respects, and even more people showed up at the visitation and celebration of life.
"He had a kind spirit to him and never had a bad word to say about anybody," said Brittany Elswick, who had known Hamilton since the sixth grade.
In August, Scotty Hamilton was recognized at the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet as Citizen of the Year.
"This would make his day. I was excited for him, but right now, it's just been really hard," said Chelsi Hamilton at the banquet. "I've had different organizations from all around the United States reach out to me, sending me letters, or sending something for Brynlee in the mail. It's been really nice to know that people think about me, even on the hard days."
"His biggest characteristic that everyone knew about Scotty was his smile," said Chris Edmonds, Chief of the Pikeville Police Department, back in August. "Heard it so many times, even before the tragedy happened, we heard it so many times. I just hope that I can continue his smile like he did to everyone else that charmed everyone like he did."
January 11 was declared Scotty Hamilton Day because his badge number was 111. This year, the Pikeville City Police Department, along with city officials and community members, held a moment of silence outside of the police department.
"Scotty could do his job and do it well and make no enemies in doing so, you know, nobody was mad at him, even the people he took to jail," said Chief Edmonds. "It's hard to replace something like that."
Chief Edmonds says no amount of training can teach an officer to deal a heart-breaking situation like this.
"You would never be able to think that we could keep going forward like we did but we always knew in our heart that he would want us to keep pushing forward and keep doing what we were doing and do it better than we ever did before. I know that's what he would have wanted and hopefully, we've done that this year," explained Chief Edmonds.
You can watch some of our coverage in the days following Officer Hamilton's sacrifice in the videos below. (If viewing on a mobile app, click the link to view in a web browser.)