A small army of volunteers spent Saturday helping the widow of fallen Liberty County Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Whitten, who died in February from complications of an on-duty gunshot wound he suffered in May 2019. The volunteers picked up trash, fallen limbs and debris, cut the grass and moved items from the Whittens’ house into a storage container while the house awaits repairs.
The cleanup was organized by Douglas Taylor, a friend of the Whittens. Taylor anticipated some help with the cleanup but was surprised when nearly 30 people showed up to pitch in.
None were more surprised and overwhelmed by the outpouring of support than Whitten’s widow, Kami, who is nursing a torn ligament and could only watch while the work was done by others.
At times overcome with emotions, Kami tearfully said the weeks since her husband’s death have been tough and are made harder by the fact that she cannot go home right now.
“We were in the middle of doing repairs to the two houses on our property when all this happened with Richard. He wouldn’t have been able to do the repairs after his injury,” she said.
One house was previously occupied by Kami’s late mother and the other was the home she shared with Whitten. A leaking roof – the result of faulty roof repairs made by a roofer – caused extensive damage to the Whittens’ home, so Kami is looking to move into her mother’s old home. Currently, both houses need extensive repairs.
“There was a downpour of water inside the house. One section of the roof will have to be completely replaced,” she said.
During his nine-month stay in the hospital following the gunshot wound, Kami seldom left his side.
“When you haven’t been here in 9-10 months, things go by the wayside. I didn’t have the ability to do it on my own. Richard was the one who always took care of things,” she said. “I would never have been able to get this all done on my own.”
Being on the receiving end of help has been a challenge.
“It is so hard accepting help. We were very private people before all of this and we were the ones helping others. It’s really hard being on the other side of it,” she said.
Her life has been interrupted for the last year, a feeling she knows is similar for the families of the other two victims killed by the shooter.
“I feel like I have been in a nightmare for 10 months, but let’s not forget all the other people who were affected by this tragedy. Out of the four people this man shot, three of them died,” she said.
While she hopes that insurance will cover some of her repairs, she knows it will not be enough to get everything accomplished on the two homes. Despite her worries, she is grateful that people cared enough to help with the cleanup on Saturday.
“I feel so blessed to have them come out and help me. I feel like I am a part of a bigger thing because of how much people cared for my husband,” she said.