While illuminated by a portrait of his smiling family, law enforcement officers remembered the late Baton Rouge Police Cpl. Shane Totty as a motor man, family man and man of honor — someone driven by compassion and a warrior’s spirit.
Totty, 31, died last Friday when the police motorcycle he was riding during a funeral procession collided with a truck in the center lane of Jones Creek Road.
“When we lose young brothers like Totty, we are reminded that sometimes we take things for granted. It takes a special kind of person to do this kind of work,” Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul said during Thursday's service at Healing Place Church.
Hundreds of law enforcement officers from agencies across the country, led by well over 100 motorcycle officers, escorted Totty’s body along the 10-mile route from the funeral service on Highland Road south of Baton Rouge to its final resting place at Greenoaks Memorial Park on Florida Boulevard.
One of the escort officers, Cpl. Robert Entrekin with the Shreveport Police Department, said through tears before the service that Totty’s story especially struck him because of the parallel tracks their careers have followed. Both are motor officers, and both were shot while on the job in 2018.
In February 2018, Totty was shot in the face by a mentally ill man while responding to a call. He was struck by the bullet, shrapnel and glass, and despite coming close to losing his eye — and his life — he immediately asked to return to the job, Paul said.
“Because of that warrior mentality that he had that day, he fought back and he survived that encounter and he went home to his family,” Paul said to the hundreds gathered at the church and others watching video feeds on the internet.
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Not only did Totty survive, but he also offered comfort to fellow officers shaken by his near miss. When he returned to the job, Totty didn’t let his injury deter him from serving the public.
Retired Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie, a former motorcycle officer, said Totty didn’t let himself succumb to fear and instead chose to stand up for the things worth living for — his family, his community and society. These were the things that drove Totty to work hard every day, he said.
Totty decided to fight for them the best way he knew how — from the seat of a police motorcycle.
“You have to have that desire and you have to have that passion to be a motor officer. You understand the dangers, you accept the possibilities, and yet your heart won’t let you do anything else,” Dabadie said. “You are never complete until you put on those motor boots. … They mean honor. They mean respect. They mean service. They mean dedication. They mean commitment to being the best that you can be.”
“Shane had this passion. He had this in his heart,” he said.
Dabadie, a second-generation motor officer, learned his passion for the road from his father, Lt. Carl Dabadie Sr. The elder Dabadie was killed in an on-duty motorcycle crash in 1984.
Dabadie said the fire in Totty’s heart burned for others. He likened Totty to a shepherd dog, someone who defends the flock against the wolves of the world, those who seek to harm and destroy.
“They are warriors who walk a hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness and walk out unscathed. Shane is a sheep dog. A protector of the weak and the defenseless. A true hero,” Dabadie said.
His passion to defend others, to serve, was intimately entwined with the love he felt for his family, his friends said.
Both dressed in blue, Totty’s fiancée Catherine Hope listened as friends recalled Totty’s passion for her and their infant daughter, Peyton. Before the service began, Hope held Peyton as the young family shared one final moment together. After handing Peyton to a family member, Hope leaned into the open coffin to give Totty one final kiss.
Cpl. Brandon Blackwell, a member of the Baton Rouge Police Motor Division, gathered with his fellow motor officers under Totty’s visage to reminiscence on special moments with their friend. Later, two motor division officers, Cpl. Michael Domingue and Cpl. Gregory Anderson, recited the “Motor Officer’s Poem,” an ode to the pride and courage of motorcycle officers.
Blackwell said Totty was a warrior, but he was also loving, caring, a good friend and, most importantly, a family man.
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“There’s only one thing I can think of he loved more than the outdoors, the police, his brothers and sisters in blue, and our motor division, and that was his family. They came first in his life, and I know everything he did was for you,” he said, looking at Totty’s family in the front row.
Blackwell, who has daughters, recalled how he would talk with Totty about their growing children, and would tell him to wait for the day Peyton would give him puppy dog eyes and he would cave to her wishes, just like Blackwell had with his own daughters. Totty was excited for those days to come, he said.
“I know one day when she is old enough to understand, she’ll be just as proud of the man he was just like we all are,” Blackwell said.
He, and the other members of the motor division, promised to be there for Peyton.
“We all just gained a daughter,” Blackwell said.
Paul said he hopes Peyton will learn how to live “the Totty way.”
“Catty, when you see Peyton trying to achieve a task and she keeps trying and she keeps fighting and she refuses to give up, keep supporting her and tell her that’s the Totty way. That’s daddy’s way,” Paul said.
To honor Totty’s heroism and devotion to service, Paul announced the Baton Rouge Police are establishing the annual Totty Award, to be given to the officer whose service “epitomizes what it means to be a true hero.”
For many, Totty’s heroism has left a lasting impression.
Peter Herndon was one of several people who gathered across the street from Baton Rouge Police headquarters on Airline Highway to honor Totty on Thursday. He had been part of the funeral procession Totty was escorting when the fatal crash occurred last week.
Herndon said the procession was for his uncle. He said Totty was riding toward the end and members of the procession following him stopped to render aid after witnessing the crash.
“This guy lost his life while he was out there protecting us,” Herndon said, describing the tragedy of attending two funerals in one week. “I felt I needed to come out today and honor him. This is the least I can do.”
Honoring Totty, and living with the same honor he exhibited each day, was a prominent theme during the day.
Officer Taylor DeRousselle, the last law officer to speak at the funeral, called on mourners to honor Totty by remembering “how he lived his life. All the people he touched, and the lives he made better.”
Wiping away tears, DeRousselle said his best friend, talking buddy and confidante, and a man who stood in his wedding, would still protect them from afar.
“Shane is our guardian angel now, and he’ll be watching over us until we meet him again,” he said.
Advocate staff writer Lea Skene contributed to this report.