“I wanted to be a part of something greater. I was tired of hearing about change and no action. I decided to do something, rather than talk.”
Those three sentences were Officer Sean Tuder’s answer when asked why he wanted to become a police officer. He wrote them as a member of the 56th class of the Mobile Police Academy, and Mayor Sandy Stimpson held those words on a small card as a community and his family laid Tuder to rest Friday morning.
“He was that gung-ho rookie. If there was a challenge he was going to run to it,” Stimpson said. “Just sixteen months after being sworn in, Sean was recognized as Officer of the Month for his bold decisions, his bold actions and his good policing. Because of Sean and the men and women who are wearing the blue, Mobile is a safer city.”
On Sunday, Jan. 20, Tuder became the 20th officer from the Mobile Police Department to be killed in the line of duty, when he came in on his day off to follow up on a tip about a wanted suspect and was shot to death in a west Mobile parking lot.
On Friday, hundreds of officers from across Alabama and from other states joined Tuder’s family and members of the community in a celebration of his life at Dauphin Way Baptist — one of the city’s largest churches and one that was without a single empty seat during the service.
Less than a year ago, many of the same faces packed the pews as the city laid to rest Officer Justin Billa after he was killed in the line of duty on Feb. 21, 2018. Addressing the audience, Public Safety Director James Barber said it was difficult to be back in the same position so soon.
“During that service, I vowed that we in law enforcement would continue to fight for all of us that have fallen and all that will fall,” Barber said. “It is with incredible disbelief that we, as an agency, and we, as a community, again stand here to honor a fallen officer.”
The tone of service was somber at times, but there were also some laughs — something Tuder’s surviving officers said they believed he would have wanted. With the permission of Tuder’s wife, Kirssy Tuder, Stimpson also shared some things Mobilians likely didn’t know about him.
Stimpson said Tuder was a “huge Baltimore Ravens fan,” who loved reading comic books, racing motocross, an occasional beer and heavy metal music — something a photo showing Tuder in high school with long hair and an electric guitar seemed to confirm.
“And for some reason, there was also a tattoo saying ‘party,’” he added.
Stimpson said the family would always have those memories of their husband, son, uncle and brother, and that Mobilians and the law enforcement community throughout the state of Alabama would be there with a showing of love and appreciation that is heartfelt and genuine.
Cpt. Melvin Jones, who commands MPD’s first precinct, said Tuder “had [him] at hello when he joined the force in 2016.
However, having spent time as an officer in his home state of Florida, Tuder was a little less wet behind the ears than the average MPD rookie.
According to Jones, “when Sean walked into a room, it was like he’d been there the whole time,” adding that he “commanded confidence,” while keeping a passion for service.
Jones said, as the first precinct captain, he knew Tuder was too good to stay in his squad for long and thanked his family for allowing the officer of the MPD to share his time.
“Whatever I needed done, whatever I was having a problem with, he would be one of the ones I was sending in because that’s what Sean did. He got things done,” Jones said. “Kirssy, Mr. and Mrs. Tuder, extended family, I thank God for him blessing you with Sean, but I thank you for blessing us with Sean and allowing us to be a part of his life.”
Jones then turned toward Tuder and said: “We got it from here, brother. You rest easy.”
There was much talk about Tuder and his time with the MPD and as a specialist with the 173rd Infantry Unit of the Army National Guard, but Barber also took time to address the hundreds of law enforcement officers, some of whom traveled several hours to attend Tuder’s funeral.
He asked that they honor Tuder and every officer who’s died in the line of duty by continuing to do their jobs with pride, with respect and with courage. He also asked them to look around and notice “the grateful community” that lined the pews of the church and the streets of Mobile.
“I’m often asked: ‘Why would anybody want to be a police officer in this country today? Where do these men and women come from?’” Barber said. Well, they come from our farms, from our towns and they come from our city streets. They come as ordinary people with an extraordinary sense of duty — a duty to protect those that cannot protect themselves, to protect the peaceful from the violent and to protect the law abiding from the lawless. From wherever they come, we as a country and as a community should thank God every day that they do come and they answer that call, even at great personal risk to their own safety.”
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