‘God needed an angel.’ Pikeville grieves for murdered police officer Scotty Hamilton.

Watch hundreds lift candles in silence for murdered Pikeville police officer

Citizens of Pikeville gathered Thursday evening for a candlelight vigil to honor Scotty Hamilton, the 35-year-old police officer shot and killed earlier this week.
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Citizens of Pikeville gathered Thursday evening for a candlelight vigil to honor Scotty Hamilton, the 35-year-old police officer shot and killed earlier this week.

Police officer Scotty Hamilton was the kind of man who could arrest you and have you thanking him for it by the time you got to the station, a former colleague said.

Hamilton, the 35-year old Pikeville officer shot and killed earlier this week, was described by those who knew him as a kind and caring man who loved his family and embraced his role as a public servant.

“It’s a sad time,” said Mark Tackett, a friend of Hamilton’s who played softball with him in an adult league. “God needed an angel.”

Residents gathered downtown Thursday evening for a candlelight vigil in his honor.

Through prayer, song and speeches, people paid tribute to Hamilton and supported each other with handshakes, hugs and shoulders to cry on.

Hamilton was shot and killed Tuesday night while responding to a call in the Hurricane community of Pikeville.

Police arrested the suspected shooter, John Russell Hall, on Thursday and charged him with murder of a police officer and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon.

Hall was arrested near the border of Pike County and Floyd County and was transported to the Pike County Detention Center, according to Kentucky State Police.

“Hopefully the arrest today of the perpetrator will give some closure to the family,” said Pikeville police officer Tony Conn, who knew Hamilton and went to the scene the night he was shot. “You never heal from anything, you just kind of learn to cope with it and try to figure out what good is going to come out of this, if any good at all.”

Officer Scotty Hamilton was shot and killed last March in Pikeville. Photo provided by the J.W. Call and Son Funeral Home

Conn was one of the officers who trained Hamilton when he first started. During training, Conn said he saw something in Hamilton that he had not seen in a while: humility.

“He took the phrase ‘To Serve’ to heart,” Conn said. “He always made everybody laugh, and he could laugh at himself too — just a great guy.”

Near the end of the vigil, people lifted their candles into the air and stood in a silent toast to the fallen officer.

After about a minute of silence, people began to sing “Amazing Grace.”

Some of the vigil speakers read from the Bible and prayed for Hamilton’s family. Others prayed for his fellow police officers, and asked God to help the community through its grief.

“We are one big family, and we always will be,” said one of the speakers.

Hamilton went to Shelby Valley High School in Pike County and graduated in 2001.

He played football and baseball in high school, all while excelling in the classroom, said Greg Napier, the current principal at Shelby Valley and Hamilton’s former teacher and football coach.

Scotty Hamilton played football at Shelby Valley High School. Photo provided by Jason Akers

Hamilton was the type of athlete who, even if his team was down, “he’d always have that smile on his face and he treated everybody with respect,” Napier said.

“He was a person of his community,” Napier said. “He cared about everybody and did everything in his power to make their lives easier.”

Tammy Hall, a teacher at Pikeville Elementary, said the community will take a long time to recover from Hamilton’s death, if it ever does.

“We are very hurt,” Hall said. “It’s like we lost a piece of our family.”

Hall said many of her students who knew Hamilton are grieving his loss.

Hamilton, along with other police officers, often visited the school to help during lock-down drills, and to help students navigate the after-school rush out of the building, Hall said.

“When you have a small community like this, they all come together to support each other,” Hall said. “Not only was (Hamilton) a good officer, he was a good person, a loving person.”

Hamilton was with the Pikeville department for 12 years. He is survived by his wife, Chelsie Hamilton, and his infant daughter, Brynlee.

Visitation will be at 5 p.m. Friday and 12 p.m. Saturday at the East Kentucky Expo Center, 126 Main Street in Pikeville. The funeral is at 1 p.m. Sunday at the East Kentucky Expo Center. Hamilton will be buried in the Pikeville City Cemetery.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Brynlee Hamilton Scholarship Fund, c/o Community Trust Bank, P.O. Box 2947, Pikeville, KY 41502.

Will Wright is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Reach him at 859-270-9760, @​HLWright