Tyrone Williams joined the Johnstown Regional Police Academy hopeful that he could convince young offenders it was never too late to straighten out their lives, an academy instructor said.
That fact makes it all the more tragic that the 42-year-old Johnstown man’s life was claimed by gunfire early Sunday, six weeks before he was set to graduate, Richland Detective and longtime academy teacher Kevin Gaudlip said.
“This was someone who really wanted to help people,” he said, adding that Williams was eyeing a career as a probation or parole officer.
“Now, he’s gone – and of all things, by a violent act,” Gaudlip said.
Johnstown police said they aren’t sure why Williams was shot dead early Sunday in the Oakhurst neighborhood.
Police Chief Craig Foust said indications they’ve received were that Williams, a former Oakhurst resident, “was a stand-up guy” who might have found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A makeshift memorial Monday paid tribute to the man where he was gunned down a day earlier on Grandinetti Avenue.
“The good die young,” one noted read.
Gaudlip said Williams, of Grass Avenue, was one of about 17 recruits who have been enrolled in the part-time, four-days-a-week academy since late 2013.
He did not know what guided Williams, a New Jersey native, toward a law enforcement career. But there was no doubt Williams was passionate, Gaudlip said.
“Tyrone talked about things that were happening here in town, and how easy it can be to get wrapped up in illegal activity,” Gaudlip said. “People make mistakes when they are young and he understood that. He was looking forward to the challenge of getting them to a point where they were making a positive contribution to their community.”
Over the past few months, Williams and classmates were side-by-side, learning self-defense, firearms training and legal instruction.
“They go through a lot,” Gaudlip said. “They become like a family.”
That’s why this week’s class will be so difficult, he added.
“I’m sure it’s going to be tough for everyone to just pick up where we left off,” Gaudlip said.
A moment of silence is planned for Williams and his family.
Academy Director Bill Richards said counseling will be available for recruits who need support.
“We’ve had a few graduates die on the job after leaving the academy – it’s part of the job, unfortunately,” said Richards, a 33-year police officer.
“But you don’t expect something like this,” Richards added. “It’s not supposed to happen when you’re still learning the job.”
David Hurst is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @tddavidhurst.