In her small Oak Cliff shop, tattoo artist Deborah Pittman is doing her part to keep alive the memory of her friend, fallen Dallas police Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens.
She’s completed several memorial tattoos for police officers who wanted to pay tribute to Ahrens and the other fallen officers who died in the downtown attack.
“Tattoos are an outward expression of what you feel inside,” said Pittman, owner of V-Twin Tattoo shop. “They’re expressing the love and loss, that they miss them and that they will always honor them. It’s a constant visual memory.”
She’s also doing a raffle in Ahrens’ honor to raise money in his honor for charity. She has already raffled one tattoo. She’ll be raffling off another July 9 and another the following month. Proceeds are going to the children of the Genesis Women’s Shelter, a shelter for battered women.
There was one tattoo she was unable to finish.
It was the one she was finishing on Ahrens’ neck, a tattoo memorializing the love he had for his wife, Katrina Ahrens.
“There’s a lot more that that person had besides a tattoo to finish, and it’s just sad,” she said.
Ahrens and his wife had been married 13 years at the time of his death. They met at Southeast patrol shortly after he joined the force in 2002. He had two children, Sorcha and Magnus.
“He was really into the brotherhood of policing, and he loved, loved being a Dallas cop, but he loved more being a husband and parent,” says Officer Joe King.
King met Ahrens when he was a rookie in the academy. Ahrens introduced himself as “Meat,” a nickname that fit Ahrens to a tee.
“I’m like Ok,” laughs King.
“That’s the way he always introduced himself,” says Senior Cpl. Jamie Castro, another close friend. “You weren’t going to argue with him. It was obvious why he was called Meat.”
The California native had played semi-professional football and previously worked for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He was known for his salty sense of humor. King says Ahrens would have wanted to be remembered as a “big, goofy, hulking bad ass.”
Ahrens was so strong that he once just simply ripped the burglar bars off a house during a drug raid.
King got emotional just looking at a picture of Ahrens, standing imposingly beside a squad car door. Ahrens at 6-foot-5 and 350 pounds, could look imposing without even trying.
“I’ve seen that cross-legged, hands on the hip stance a thousand times,” he said. “It kind of just epitomizes him.”
But Ahrens had his soft side.
Castro and King say Ahrens changed after the birth of his kids. Ahrens talked often of how proud he was of his children.
“We saw him become the family man,” Castro said.
Not long before he died, Ahrens made friends with a homeless man. He gave the man meals and food for his dog.
On the night of the attack last summer, Ahrens, Michael Krol and Patrick Zamarripa were part of a response team from the southwest patrol division working the protest rally.
Katrina Ahrens told WFAA last year in an interview that she recalled the last words she spoke to her husband.
“I told him to be good and to have fun,” she said. She wasn’t concerned for him because he knew he could take care of himself.
“Lorne was the most prepared cop that I know. Lorne was aware on a bad day,” she said in that interview.
Krol and Ahrens were standing by their squad car, when a former Army reservist started shooting. Zamarripa was nearby.
Castro says he knew it was going to be bad when he pulled up outside Baylor Hospital last summer and saw the shot-up squad car. A police major told him that Ahrens was in surgery.
“I’ll never forget the way he looked at me,” Castro says. “He kind of just grabbed me by the shoulder and said, ‘It’s Lorne.”
Castro waited outside the door as Ahrens underwent surgery.
“I said, ‘He can’t be alone,’” Castro says. “He’s not going to be there alone. I said, ‘I got to be by his side.’”
He says Ahrens would have done same thing for his friends. Ahrens died in the early morning hours of July 8, 2016.
The damage to his liver was just too much.
No protest can ever be viewed the same since the attack, say King and Castro.
“It’s changed Dallas officers, and in all honesty, I think it’s changed officers across the nation about the way they view these events,” Castro said.
It changed how officers protect themselves.
Ahrens and the other members of his team had heavy vests with the rifle plates that would have been given them some protection against the gunman. Rifle rounds can go right through regular vests.
The department had decided not to let the officers wear them that night. They didn’t want officers to look too militaristic. Since then, officers working protests have been allowed to wear the heavy vests.
King and Castro say the outpouring of community support has been important in the healing process.
“When we saw the evil that men can do, at the same time, we saw humanity at its best come out and say, ‘We truly back the blue,’” Castro says. “It was the silent majority that came out. I’ll never forget everything they did for our officers.”
Castro and King plan to remember Ahrens in their own way on the anniversary of his death.
“When we were all together, that was the best of times,” Castro says.
Pittman misses seeing Ahrens, who worked the beat where her shop is located on Jefferson Boulevard.
“I’ll see some big bald cop out there and just think there is he,” she says. “He was the last person I could imagine anything happening to.”
Ahrens had wanted to finish the tattoo sleeve on his left arm. Pittman had completed the tracings for it.
It would have been a protector theme.
He wanted a rifle, a sheepdog and a scripture from Proverbs. He already had a St. Michael the Archangel, the leader of the armies of God.
“He was always the protector of his family, and that's what it was about for him,” Pittman said.