During the heat of a Texas summer, a quarter-mile walk in the sun can feel like a long-distance marathon as you focus on your destination in the distance.
At the heavily forested Edwyn J. Gorrell Memorial Park, however, a quarter-mile seems like an appropriate distance for such a hot day. The rocky yet navigable trail makes a short linear path with a small loop through dense trees near Clark High School in the Northwest Side of town.
The park serves as a memorial to Eddie Gorrell, a San Antonio Police Department patrol officer who was shot Feb. 22, 1988, while attempting to make an arrest in downtown San Antonio near the St. Anthony Hotel and Travis Park.
Gorrell had been with the San Antonio Police Department for only two years before the shooting took place. Gorrell had worked at multiple H-E-B locations in supervisory roles but always was drawn to law enforcement, following in the footsteps of his brother who worked as a Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper in Seguin. His wife, Linda Gorrell, gave him her blessing the day after he signed up with the police department.
Shortly after graduating from the police academy May of ’86, Gorrell was placed on plainclothes foot patrol. Gorrell liked to go big and dress like Kojak, the fictional New York City police detective played by Telly Savalas in the 1970s. Famous for wearing a fedora and sucking on a lollipop, Kojak inspired Gorrell to do the same, including reciting the famous line “Who loves ya, baby?” when working, said Mara Wilson, a retired SAPD officer who went to academy and worked foot patrol with Gorrell.
Gorrell, hospitalized for more than four months, died on July 5, 1988. Linda was at his side throughout his stay while taking care of her daughter, Shavawn, 6, and her 2-year-old son, Christopher.
“It was a little different for Linda because when Eddie got shot, he was in the hospital for a while. It doesn’t make it any easier but it gives you time to process everything and prepare yourself.” Wilson said.
“It’s like it just happened yesterday. You don’t ever get over it.” Linda said.
Gorrell’s killer, David Johnson, now 60, is serving a life sentence in the Allred Unit, a Texas penitentiary on the outskirts of Wichita Falls.
Since her husband’s death, Linda has used her experience to help other families suffering from loss in the wake of tragedy. She works closely with the 100 Club, a local civilian-driven effort that helps support the families of fallen law enforcement officers and firefighters in Bexar County. She has met with the families and wives of first responders killed in the line of duty since her husband’s death and continues to do so.
“Linda has been terrific as far as letting us know what the families need and how to approach them. Because no one can ever know what they’re going through.” said 100 Club President Richard Miller.
Upon arrival to Edwyn J. Gorrell Memorial Park, visitors will notice a large monument dedicated not only to Officer Gorrell but intended to speak to the families of first responders and military personnel across the country. The limestone sculpture created by artist Gilbert Barrera depicts a woman holding a letter in one hand informing her of the news of her partner’s passing and a dove in the other. A bronzed photograph of Gorrell in uniform is found below the widow.
Gorell’s children are grown, and his grandchildren Logan and Luke are frequent visitors at “Grandpa Eddie’s Park.” The grandchildren pressed their hands into wet cement at the dedication of the park’s playground.
“I come here a lot just to sit,” Linda said. “I feel closer to him here than I do at the cemetery. I have a bench right in front of his marker, but I feel better here.”