ST. AMANT, LA (WAFB) - Across the state, people are learning about fallen Officer Thomas LaValley with the Shreveport Police Department. He was many things to many people, but in his hometown of St. Amant in Ascension Parish, he will always be T.J.
"Thomas had no mask. He just was. No one will ever take that away," said his cousin Jeannie Averett.
Barely 24 hours after 29-year-old LaValley was gunned down in Shreveport by a man wanted for attempted murder, four generations of the officer's family gathered in front of his grandmother's house to honor him. As they lit candles, they shared prayers and memories of their cousin, nephew and friend.
A few miles away, a wooden cross was erected in his mother's yard with bright balloons thanking LaValley for his sacrifice. Statewide, he will be remembered as a man who died protecting others, but in St. Amant he will be remembered for a big heart, strong moral compass and a scrappy nature.
"He was just like every other kid, lean and lanky, young. But, he was eager and he was a hard worker. Those are the things he brought to wrestling," said LaValley's old wrestling coach Phil Body. "What wrestling gave back to him was a lifetime of belief in fair play, honesty and courage."
"We've had a lot of kids who have gone on to do fabulous things, win gold metals and do great, great things," said St. Amant High School Athletic trainer Scott Arceneaux. "It's these types of kids that you see every day that are just being solid citizens. I mean look at what he's doing. He chose a profession that takes care of people."
After graduating from St. Amant High in 2003, LaValley went onto college and became a sports reporter in north Louisiana. It was that job that led him to the Shreveport Police force, a profession for which his cousin said he seemed destined.
"He's been a cop as a long as I've known him because he believes in wanting to do the good thing, wanting to do the right thing. Ever since I've known him that's just who he is. He's a good person through and through," said cousin Bryan Averett.
Though the grief is overwhelming, LaValley's family may take comfort in knowing that a part of him lives on, helping others. He was an organ donor.
"That sums up who he was," said Bryan. "Even in death, he will help somebody."
LaValley's family said he will return to St. Amant on Saturday and laid to rest next Monday.
Visitation for Officer LaValley will be held at Ourso Funeral Home on Airline Hwy in Gonzales. The visitation will start Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and resume Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
The funeral mass will start at 11 a.m. Monday and will be held at Holy Rosary Catholic Church on Hwy 429 in St. Amant. Following the service, LaValley will be laid to rest in the church ceremony.
KSLA reported police said LaValley responded to a call around 9:15 p.m. of a suspicious person making threats. Police said LaValley contacted the person and was shot multiple times in the upper body. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Police Chief Willie Shaw described the shooting as a "very tragic set of circumstances."
Police also confirmed they are searching for Grover Cannon, 27, of Shreveport, as the suspect in the shooting death of LaValley. He was already wanted for attempted second-degree murder in connection with a shooting on July 15 that wounded Darren Williams, 41.