Forever remembered: Mount Holly police officer killed in line of duty laid to rest

MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. — The community of Mount Holly said its final goodbyes to police officer Tyler Herndon. He was killed in the line of duty early last Friday morning, just two days shy of his 26th birthday.

Herndon’s funeral was Tuesday at First Baptist Church in Kings Mountain.

Chopper 9 flew over a police procession Tuesday morning as hundreds of officers headed to honor their fallen brother.

The procession stretched for a mile down the highway. Cars heading the other direction often pulled over as people showed respect for the young man who gave his life serving our community.

[PHOTOS of Mount Holly Police Officer Tyler Herndon]

Police traveled from Shelby to Kings Mountain to pay their respects. Some of them friends and colleagues, some of them strangers but all paying their respects to a man who dreamed of being in law enforcement.

Dozens of his brothers in blue stood together to honor his sacrifice.

“He will forever be remembered for the way he lived,” said Chief Don Roper, Mount Holly Police Department. “If there is ever a question about whether someone’s life mattered, look around. You drove in here. You saw the outpouring of love and respect and honor.”

Following the service, Herndon was buried with full law enforcement honors at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Kings Mountain.

“I am a better man because of Tyler Herndon, Roper said. “Mount Holly is a better place. Mount Holly is a better police department because of Tyler Herndon.”

The friends he grew up with took some time to remember him.

“(We) sat around the campfire and his sister and girlfriend were able to come over and it was just like he was there with us,” said Chase Hullender, Herndon’s best friend. “I just hope he understood how proud (we) and his fellow officers were of him”

>> Read Herndon’s obituary here.

On Tuesday, Sen. Thom Tillis spoke on the Senate floor to honor the life of Officer Herndon. His full remarks are below.

“Mr. President, I am here today to honor the life of Officer Tyler Herndon, a member of the Mount Holly Police Department in North Carolina who tragically lost his life in the line of duty last week, just days before his 26th birthday.

“Officer Herndon will be laid to rest today, and I wanted to take a moment to honor his life, his service to his community, and speak about the noble profession he chose.

“Officer Herndon was responding to a report of a break-in on Friday morning and upon his arrival he was murdered on the scene. He had been an officer with the Mount Holly PD for less than two years.

“He is described by his colleagues on the Mount Holly Police Department as “the guy you just can’t help but like.” He was active in his community as not only a law enforcement officer, but as a volunteer at local schools. His goal was to become an FBI officer, and he was just approaching the two years he needed as a police officer to become eligible to apply.

“Officer Herndon’s life and promising career were senselessly taken away. His tragic death is a reminder of the dangers our men and women in blue face each and every day they go to work to protect our communities.

“In 2020, there have been 47 law enforcement officers killed in the U.S. Of those, eight were ambushed in premeditated attacks, two were victims of an unprovoked attack, and the other 37 officers killed in the line of duty. These gruesome killings are in addition to the hundreds of officers who have been shot and injured this year.

“These 47 Americans were not only law enforcement officers. They were someone’s loving parent. They were someone’s spouse. They were someone’s child.

“That’s a point that has unfortunately been neglected by some, especially given the shameful effort to not only minimize the work of law enforcement, but to also demonize it.

“Law Enforcement Officers put their lives on the line to keep us safe. Our debates in Congress should not be about whether to defund or abolish the police. It should be how we can respect and support law enforcement through greater investments and commonsense reforms.

“I will never turn my back on the brave men and women in blue who protect North Carolina. Congress needs to start showing more support and respect for law enforcement not only through our words, but our actions. And we must hold the violent criminals who target them accountable.

“That’s why I and several of my Senate colleagues have introduced the Protect and Serve Act, legislation that would create federal penalties for individuals who deliberately target local, state, or federal law enforcement officers with violence.

“Next Congress I plan to re-introduce this legislation and work to build support until passage, because with increased penalties like those proposed in the Protect and Serve Act, criminals may start thinking twice before targeting an officer, and if they still choose to – they’ll regret it.

“There is no doubt that being a law enforcement officer is one of the hardest and most dangerous jobs in the country. But it’s also one of the most noble and honorable professions. They run to danger to protect others, and they are fully aware of those dangers as they go through the police academy and begin their career as officers.

“Tyler Herndon is an officer who answered the call and ran to danger in order to protect others.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Officer Herndon’s family, the Mount Holly Police Department, and the residents of the community he served.

“We will never forget the sacrifice he made to protect the community he loved.”

“He loved this job. He loved Mount Holly”

Sunday night, the community, along with the police department, honored Herndon’s memory with a candlelight vigil.

“I love him,” Herndon’s father, Mark Herndon, said at a vigil Sunday night. “I’m proud of him.”

Mark Herndon gave emotional speeches at two candlelight vigils about the special bond his son had with the Mount Holly Police Department.

“He loved this job,” Mark Herndon said. “He loved Mount Holly. He loved the Mount Holly Police Department.

Tyler Herndon was shot around 3:30 a.m. Friday at the Mount Holly Car Wash and Arcade on Beatty Drive, just north of Interstate 85.

The shooting happened after Mount Holly police officers confronted an armed suspect while responding to a breaking and entering call.

According to CMPD, during the encounter, several shots were fired between the suspect and several Mount Holly police officers, as well as a Gaston County police officer who also responded to the call.

Herndon was shot and taken to Caromont Medical Center with serious injuries, where he later died.

Since then, Channel 9 has seen community members and officers from across the Charlotte area add to a growing memorial outside the Mount Holly Police Department.

Eric McMillian, a retired deputy with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, said he didn’t know Herndon but he knows what the community lost.

“This is a brotherhood, I lost another brother,” McMillian said. “I hate it for the family, I’m angry. This has just got to stop. This assault on our law enforcement officers has just got to stop.”

The group Blue Line Spouses knows firsthand what the Mount Holly Police Department is going through -- they are from Mooresville, where in May 2019 Officer Jordan Sheldon was shot and killed during a traffic stop.

“Everyone in the community was there for us a year and a half ago,” Danielle Plyler from Blue Line Spouses said. “We just want to be here for the Mount Holly Blue Line family. The spouses, we know how they feel. A year and a half ago, all of us ladies felt lost, like we were helpless and couldn’t do anything and we rallied together.”

The spouses decorated the department entrance with blue lights and bows, and then put up clotheslines so that visiting agencies could leave their department’s patches or notes or mementos to remember Herndon.

“There is nothing you can do,” Plyler said. “You learn to live with the grief, no get over the grief, so we have come together as a family to learn to live with our grief.”