Eric Talley was the first police officer to respond to the active shooter situation at a Boulder, Colorado grocery store on Monday afternoon — and the fateful call would become his last.
As bystanders fled towards safety, Talley ran in the opposite direction. "The people were running in the parking lot away, and he was running toward the grocery store," his father, Homer Talley, tells PEOPLE.
His bravery would cost him his life. Talley was one of 10 people killed in the mass shooting.
The sudden loss has made Talley's family reflect on the man who left his job in the private sector 11 years go to become an officer.
When Homer Talley spoke to his son last week, Eric Talley talked about breezy things such as buying a new vehicle — but the conversation turned serious when he mentioned his fear of being killed in action.
"He was worried about his family," Homer, 74, tells PEOPLE. "Being a police officer, he had seen other officers go, and their families suffered because they were killed — and he didn't want to put his family through that. It's kinda ironic less than a week later, his family is going through that. I told him to be careful out there.
Talley had seven children, ages 7 to 20 — and by all accounts was a doting dad. "He's a better father than I was," says Homer. "He loved his children more than anything else. He was very involved with his kids. He showed them love."
Talley hadn't always been a cop. A self-proclaimed "tech nerd," he held a master's degree in computer science, but was unhappy working in the private sector. More than 11 years ago, he decided to make a change.
"He called me on the phone one day and said he didn't like the job he had," recalls Homer Talley. "It was behind a desk all day. He said, 'I'm going to try out for the Police Academy.' I said, 'Are you crazy?' I said, 'Police officers get shot at.' He said, 'I know. That's one of the reasons I'm doing it.'"
An officer for 11 years, the fallen cop was also a drone operator for the Boulder Police Department. He loved his work.
Talley was a well-regarded officer who once made headlines when he rescued baby ducks from a drainage ditch.
As the news of Tally's death spread, people who he once helped are remembering his legacy. A Twitter used named Annabelle Marie tweeted about the night Talley helped her when an abusive ex showed up at her home: "I credit Officer Talley for saving my life. I still have his card. Thank you for being my hero that night & thank you for being a hero to everyone in King Soopers today."
Officer Talley's younger sister also took to Twitter to offer tribute to her fallen brother.
"Fly high my sweet brother," she wrote. "You always wanted to be a pilot (damn color blindness). Soar."
Authorities in Boulder have identified the suspected shooter as 21-year-old Ahmad Alissa of Arvada, Colo.
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At this point, there is no known motive for Monday's shooting, which occurred less than a week after eight people were fatally shot at three separate Atlanta-area spas by a single shooter.
Video footage of his arrest Monday shows the suspect limping, and his right leg, covered in blood.
The suspect has yet to enter pleas to the 10 counts of first-degree murder he faces, and court documents do not reflect an attorney who is authorized to speak on his behalf.
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