By Haley Huston
Keith Shuemake, or simply Shuemake to most students, is one of the most interactive officers on campus, but has seen more tragedy than most people will experience in their life.
Shuemake has worked in Garland, Jacksonville and Tyler ISD as a detective, patrol and traffic officer, sergeant and chief throughout the years. He has worked at TJC as an officer for the past three years after resigning from chief of Tyler ISD.
“I’ve seen a lot of tragedy,” said Shuemake. “I’ve always wanted to help someone give birth. Instead the bad part of life, the tragic part of life, I’ve always wanted to help do that.”
He has performed CPR five times and lost three people and been shot on five separate occasions.
“[Students] probably don’t look at me from the perspective of what I have done in my past as a patrol officer and what I’ve had to do,” said Shuemake.
“From being in vehicle pursuits and being shot at and put in a position so that you are the only thing between this person living and dying.”
Shuemake says despite all the less appealing side to being an officer he always knew it was he wanted to do because he wanted to help people.
“Middle of the afternoon, beautiful day, and not a cloud in the sky I get sent to a welfare concern. I always hated those because they ended up being some kind of crap, but the concern was there was a man who didn’t have any family and his friend hadn’t been able to get ahold of him for a couple weeks. He lived in an apartment, a really low income apartment, and it had one door and window and that was it. So I go there beat on the door, no one came to the door. I get the maintenance guy he comes to open the door and before he starts to do I look in the windowstill and I could see flies everywhere. I called for another unit to come over there with me. Have you ever smelled a dead body? It is horrible, absolutely horrible. There is really no way to even describe it. The guy took the window pane off and the second he does it’s like pepper spray [the smell] just shot out. The maintenance dude just dropped his tools and ran off.
I opened up the door and looked inside and the guy had been sitting at the computer, which at the wall right there at that window. He was a big man, like 300 lbs., and when he died he fell backwards in the chair. He had been there for like a week and a half. When you die and no one touches your body for like a week and half you swell up. It’s like all this fluid and the fluid starts to leak out. The fluid was all in the carpet. If you stepped on the carpet it was going to get all in your boots, even if they were rubber boots and you were never going to get that smell out. You would have to throw away the whole uniform. We later found out he had diabetes and he wasn’t taking care of his self ”
“When I was working in a garage I met a cop and he was coming in and having work done on his car. He was like ‘you’re pretty cool, you should come ride with us’ and I was like ‘I can do that’ because I didn’t know.”
Despite growing up in a firehouse Shuemake never had interest in following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a firefighter, but began riding with the police and decided become one.
“I rode with this guy and I had a blast and I loved it,” said Shuemake. “I applied to the police department because all the guys that I was hanging out with were telling me to do it. I went through the whole process and passed it all, but they were hiring people right out of Vietnam.”
Shuemake applied for a job twice and after getting reject both times he began to settle down, getting married and investing in a garage.
“When I turned 31 there was an opening in an arson investigating school,” said Shuemake. “I actually had to quit work for a month. I got that certification and when I tried to get hired on at the city they would choose people who were certified as that and a peace officer too.”
Shuemake put himself through the police academy in Mesquite and at the end different agencies came and he was recruited by Garland for his first job as a police officer.
Though Shuemake has loved being an officer, the job has not always been the easiest.
“When I worked in Jacksonville I went to this burglary of this guy in an apartment. It was this guy and he was the sergeant at TVC, the prison and he was also retired from the Marine Corps, big stout guy. He said he got there and saw that the door had been kicked in so he didn’t go, but waited to guy in with me so he didn’t touch anything. He was kind of in a panic. He was worried about his prize possession in the apartment which was a John Wayne VHS collection. The bad guys didn’t touch it. Once he realized that okay he ran to the front of the apartment and there was a little coat closet and the there was one of those big easter basket you get at Wal-Mart wrapped in cellophane and he said that was his 10-year-old son’s. He began to talk about his son and he loved that boy.
After that if I was patrolling through that apartment complex I would stop and chit-chat and this went on for a few month. One afternoon I got a call that there was a drunk man passed out in a car over there at the apartment complex. So I went over there and it was him laid back in the car. I thought holy crap I didn’t even know this guy drank so I went over there and woke him and come to find out he got his back injured wrestling or fighting someone at the prison and they gave him these muscle relaxers and they were just knocking him out. I kind of laughed at him and I got his keys and helped him get in the apartment. I got him on the couch and put the keys on the coffee table and I said I can’t lock the door cause it’s like a deadbolt, but you’re right here so it’ll be fine. Then he said ‘oh my god, my son has a game,’ and it was in like two hours. I told him couldn’t drive and he said he had to get there. I told him I understand, you’ll probably go to sleep in the bleachers, but you can’t drive. He said he had to get there so I picked the keys up and said I’m not going to leave these keys until you promise you will find someone to drive you and he said okay. I left the key. So two hours later I heard them dispatch someone to a crash and then a few minutes later I heard them call for a justice of the peace which means somebody died. I called one of my friends, which was a deputy, and he told me that it was that guy.”
The officers that work for TJC are people with real badges, real guns and real experience.