Downtown vigil honors Officer Aaron ‘Bull’ Hudson

Several hundred people gathered in Downtown Salisbury on Tuesday night for a vigil to honor city Police Officer Aaron “Bull” Hudson, 46, who died at his home Monday.

The candlelight event was held at the corner of North Division and West Main streets, the very location where Hudson, standing with his police-equipped bicycle much of every day, held post as the city’s “Downtown Bike Cop.”

“It dawned on me standing out here tonight that Aaron Hudson wore body armor to work every day,” Mayor Jake Day told the crowd. “But there was about nothing else between his heart and every single one of us.”

Those in attendance joined Amanda Weaver in singing “It Is Well With My Soul” and “Amazing Grace.” The vigil was hosted by her husband, Pastor Ryan Weaver of Remedy Church.  

Pastor Martin Hutchison of the Community of Joy Church talked of his longtime friendship with Hudson, which he frequently documented on social networking.

“I’m grateful for Bull’s friendship,” he said, “for everything he did, for me, for us, for this city — and there’s so much that won’t be the same without him here. We’ll miss him.”

Salisbury Police officers and members of the fire department have all shrouded their badges in black, in mourning for Hudson, who had been with the police department 27 years.

Hudson’s death prompted hundreds of comments on social media.

Around noon Monday, people began laying dozens of long-stemmed red roses, framed photos of themselves with Hudson, and other flowers and mementos at the east end of the Downtown Plaza beside the Kindness Fountain.

“This corner will never be the same without you,” Jamie Heater, Director of the city’s Arts and Entertainment District, posted on Facebook, with a photo of the deep red flowers.

Gregarious to a fault, Hudson was well-known for bringing a human touch to the world of law enforcement. He talked to everyone: city tourists, Downtown business people, delivery people, vagrants, lost visitors — everyone.

“If Bull loved you, there was nothing that would stop him from letting you know,” Day told the vigil crowd. “If Bull wanted to tell you a joke, there was nothing you could do to stop him from telling it. If Bull wanted to do something ridiculous, there was nothing you were going to do to stop him.”

Still clearly stunned by his friend and employee’s passing, the mayor tried to find words that could explain the situation to a collection of people grasping for an answer.

“Maybe we’ve learned that Bull was hurting,” Day said. “I’ve had 17 waking hours since he died to come up with a way to make sense of this — I got nuthin’.

Pastor Weaver encouraged those assembled to take a few minutes and share stories recalling their encounter with Hudson. One could hear an array of anecdotes being exchanged — sometimes to quiet laughter, other times to sobbing.

Hutchison said such stories are important.

“Those stories will sustain us in the days ahead,” he said.

Both Day and Hutchison urged those who might be experiencing deep problems to seek help.

“Bull loved our city,” Hutchison said. “He did what he could to bring joy into our lives — maybe even when he wasn’t feeling too good himself. We don’t know.

“None of us has to be alone. If you’re struggling and you don’t know where to turn, you can turn to God, you can turn to a friend, reach out — don’t carry that struggle internally by yourself,” Hutchison said.

Day offered similar guidance.

“Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to love like Bull. Here’s our path forward: We’re going to live our lives like how Bull lived his life,” Day said.

Earlier Tuesday, Hutchison described Hudson as “kind, outgoing, lovable, huggable.”

“He just had a persona that was larger than life, but he was the real deal. He was everybody’s friend,” said Hutchison, who posted photos of Hudson and wrote, “Rest easy, big guy. You are missed already. Our hearts are broken. You touched so many lives with love, joy and fun.”

Hudson and Heather Herbert were married about two years ago and recently returned from an anniversary trip to a Sandals resort in the Caribbean.

“I have no doubt God welcomed him in,” Hutchison added.

Mayor Day ordered flags to fly at half-staff “until further notice” and announced the fountain at City Park will be illuminated in blue for the rest of the year “in awareness of suicide prevention and to pay tribute to the life of … Hudson.”

Day posted a photo of the laughing officer, pen in hand, sitting at the mayor’s desk, with “Bull” printed on a yellow piece of paper covering Day’s name.

“From 3rd Friday to National Night Out to his daily patrol, Bull has been a familiar face within the Salisbury community, who was known for his outgoing personality,” Day wrote.

“He had a charisma that could bring a smile to your face as he brightened the day of all he came into contact with. Officer Hudson embodied the quintessence of what it means to be a public servant as he was more than a government official, he was a liaison helping to strengthen relationships between our community and law enforcement.

“As we take time to reflect upon Officer Hudson’s legacy and remember his service to our community, let us also keep his wife, Heather, in our thoughts,” Day wrote.

Local photographer Todd Dudek, also buddies with Hudson, credited him for bringing Dudek’s daughters coffee and sitting and talking to them during a family difficulty years ago.

“There is going to be a hole left in this community without Bull,” said Dudek, who most recently saw him at 3rd Friday last week.

That’s when Heater saw him, too, and his death devastated her.

“It’s a really tough reminder that mental illness is real. And my heart breaks for him,” she said.

In a touching video of his wedding, posted by local photographer Tony Weeg, Hudson’s bride tells him, “I get to stand by your side, laugh with you, cherish you and respect you. I love you for so many reasons … I love your sense of humor and infectious cackle.

“You always know how to bring a smile to my face. I love the love you have for your family … I’ve been lucky enough to see your sweeter, softer side.”

Pastor Weaver performed the marriage vows for the couple and cherished their alliance. He said he found Hudson to be “in every relevant way, one of the great mascots of our community.”

“I mean that in a very positive way. This man was a very much a friend and a mascot to many and served as the face of the Salisbury Police Department at a time when we needed such things in our community, someone to be a face of the SPD, alongside Chief (Barbara) Duncan and our Police Department, who are hurting today.

“There are so many there who are finding their way through this tragedy, this shock,” he said.

“Bull and Heather are very, very special people and important to our community in ways that we can only begin to understand now.

“That’s one of the things about absence and grief and loss that requires a community to come together,” Weaver said.

“So often people feel alone. They feel there aren’t pathways to help. This is a very important moment to remind people who may feel alone that there is hope. It’s our responsibility to reach out to them and to include them in moments like this.”


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