PROVO — As hundreds gathered Wednesday evening in Provo to honor a fallen officer, family members and comrades described Joseph Shinners as courageous and kind, a man whose life was dedicated to serving others.
"He's a scrapper, he's a hockey player. He wasn't afraid to get in there and take a bad guy to jail and do what he had to do. But he also was the guy that would give a hug to somebody who was on their way to jail," said Provo Police Chief Richard Ferguson, speaking in front of the Provo Police Department during the somber candlelit vigil.
"That's his character, and that's who he is," Ferguson said.
Shinners came from a family committed to service — his father is a retired firefighter and his two brothers are also in law enforcement, the police chief explained.
John Shinners, Joe's father, thanked the community for its support of the family. The father became emotional as he described seeing people with their hands on their hearts along the road as the family drove from Salt Lake City to Provo in a procession escorting his son's body.
"I can see that this is a community that really respects and loves its first responders."
"Our Joey was about love. Family, friends, and the citizens he served. All of you. His personality touched everyone he met, even many of the people that he had to take downtown here," Shinners said.
Michael Shinners, Joe's brother, said, "Joe loved what he did. He loved his brothers … and he also loved his brother officers, loved his community and loved to serve. That's who he was and is. He died doing what he absolutely loved to do."
Police said Shinners was fatally shot by a suspect Saturday night when Provo and Orem officers responded to the Orem Bed Bath and Beyond parking lot, 50 W. University Parkway, to arrest Matt Frank Hoover, 40, who in the recent past had made threats of violence against police officers.
It appears Shinners was able to return fire, wounding Hoover, police say. Once Hoover is released from Utah Valley Hospital, where he was in stable condition at last report, he faces multiple criminal charges, including aggravated murder of a police officer, police have said.
Shinners had been on the Provo Police Department for three years. He is survived by his wife, Kaylyn, and 1-year-old son, Logan.
Officer Alex Felsing described his friend's sense of humor and love for his family.
"Joe was the type of guy that if you were to text him at 1 in the morning and say, 'I'm thinking of shaving my head,' he'd be the guy that would respond, 'I'll be down in five minutes. You need clippers?'"
Felsing pulled off a beanie to reveal a sheared head and said, "I think this is here to stay, because this was something that Joe did. And he thought it was hilarious, and I showed up to work because he said it looked good. And I was expecting everybody to think I looked great because Joe told me I looked handsome, and I was wrong," Felsing said.
The silence in the crowd was briefly broken by laughter.
"And I get roused for it quite a bit now, but it's here to stay. This is my Joe haircut."
Felsing described Shinners as a family man, recalling "many times" when friends invited him to activities but Shinners declined because he wanted to spend time with his family.
"Or we would plan something and he would show up an hour and a half late, because Logan was being too cute and he couldn't put him to bed on time. He wanted to, he just couldn't do it," Felsing said. "That's really what Joe was about."
Capt. Brian Wolken taught Shinners at the police academy and said he always had 'it.'
"With Joe, we immediately knew that he had 'it.' … 'It' is a combination of compassion, courage, knowledge, resilience and integrity, and he possessed all of those," Wolken said. "And he excelled just as I knew he would because he had 'it,' and he never wavered."
The community is also reeling from the loss.
Linda Vee, who works for the city, told the Deseret News Shinners' loss feels like losing an "extended family member" and has been difficult for fellow city employees.
Eleven-year-old Wesslee Berger and his father, Travis Berger, met Shinners once when Wesslee visited the police station to meet and thank officers.
It's something Wesslee says he does regularly, "'Cause they're awesome."
"They don't get thanked near enough for what they do. You see all the bad on TV, but millions of officers that go and do their jobs and go home every day, and you don't hear a word about them," Travis Berger explained.
Bart Wilson, who spent 29 years on the Payson Police Department, agreed that thanking officers can make a big difference.
"We're still all family. … I have the utmost respect for them all still, and then this kid pays the ultimate price for us. We owe it to him. And like Travis says, they don't get it on the daily basis. Usually when they fall. We need it more often," he said.
"It goes a big way when you see them in a parking lot, just to go up, a simple handshake, thank them for what they do," Travis Berger chimed in.
A GoFundMe memorial account for Shinners' family has raised more than $58,000 as of Wednesday.
A funeral for Shinners has been planned for Saturday. Gov. Gary Herbert ordered flags in the state be lowered that day.