CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Officer Fred Thornton was just months away from retirement when he died February 25, after a flash bang device exploded at his home.
Hundreds of people attended his funeral on March 1. Just over a week later his widow, Linda, sat down with NewsChannel 36 reporter Glenn Counts to talk about her loss and her husband s legacy.
I miss him like there s no tomorrow, she says. I just miss him. I miss feeling him, I just miss him and I will always do that.
Words come easy to Linda Thornton; she is much like her late husband in that way. The day she lost Fred he had just arrived home from a SWAT deployment and she met him in the driveway.
He gets out of his car at the exactsame time and he said hello wife, do you want to go out for dinner? Linda remembers. He gave me a kiss and I said yeah, but you decide where we re going to go. I got my packages, walked in the door and two minutes later it went off.
The 'it' she isreferring to is the flash bang distraction device that SWAT officers carry to deal with difficult suspects.
He heard my voice, he knew I was talking to him while the Medics were coming. He knew that, Linda said. He heard me and for that I am grateful becauseI hope it gave him some comfort .
Linda says she could not have imagined the device being so dangerous.
This is a device that is not meant to cause harm, she explains. It s a deterrent, I guess.
Even during these difficult times, Linda manages to keep a smile on her face, especially when looking at old photographs or mementos the couple accumulated during their 17 years together. But grieving is not easy.
It s when the quiet comes and you re alone again, sometimes it s unbearably difficult, she says.
Through her pain, Linda has been comforted by her police family and the fact that her husband was living his dream by being a SWAT team member.
I know he would want me to be okay, I do, she says. I have no doubts about that and I will be... just with a big hole in my heart.
Linda and Fred met 17 years ago at Eastland Mall.
We had plans and then in an instant everything is changed, she said.
While she has shed plenty of tears, she laughs when she thinks about all the good times, including the debates they had.
What was his saying, when the team breaks down we break down, she recalls.
Since Linda can no longer talk to her husband, she writes.
I write to him like he's here, like hopefully he hears me, she said. You know it just helps a little bit.
Fortunately Linda has not had to go it alone. She says her police family has been right by her side.
The amount of support for him, for us, has been amazing, she said. He was a patrol officer, but they buried him like he was a president.
Sources say that Fred was killed by a defense tech 25 flash bang, one of the most powerful on the market. No one witnessed the incident. Linda has questions about whether her husband was at fault or the company.
I pray we find there was a cause, she said. Emotionally that would be so much better that I know Fred had no part of what happened. That's what I would like to hear. Am I going to hear that? I don t know.
For all of the many people Fred touched, Linda has a comforting message.
He was a very happy man and he told me that, Linda said. I can t tell you how many times over the last year how happy he was, where he was in his life.