SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — Jan. 9 marked one year since a Shreveport police officer’s life was taken.
Chatéri Payne was getting ready for work when the officer was shot multiple times outside her home.
Although she’s been gone for a year, she still has a way of putting a smile on her loved ones’ faces.
“From Day One, she is the biggest diva you’ve ever known,” her mother, LaKeitha Nash-Hudson, recalled. “She is the girliest of girl tomboys is what she is.”
Payne was active and loved to write poetry, sing and even act.
“She actually wanted to do entertainment law," Nash-Hudson said. "A lot of people don’t know that, but she wanted to do entertainment law.”
Payne also originally didn’t want to go to college after graduating from high school but applied to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and was accepted. She eventually came back home and went to Bossier Parish Community College in Bossier City then transferred to Southern University-Shreveport to become a radiology technician.
“We had all the same classes at the same times,” said her best friend, Quinterrica Monroe. “I didn’t know her name at first. And I was like ‘I don’t want to be rude and say what’s your name.’ And we had been hanging for so long, but I did and she was like ‘It’s okay, I’m the same way’."
From there, Payne’s and Monroe’s friendship blossomed.
For Tremekia Ashley, her friendship with Payne goes all the way back to middle school.
“We were on the dance team together; and I don’t know how we started talking, but we did. And one summer, I don’t remember what year it was, but I basically lived here,” Ashley said.
Even though they loved her, they knew her mother’s love was much stronger.
“I know that people don’t say that your child is your best friend, but it was like we were best friends," Nash-Hudson said.
So it came as a shock to everyone when her daughter decided to switch careers.
“One day, she was like ‘I applied to the police academy and I’m going to take my civil service test.’ And I was like ‘What?’"
“I said no,” Ashley recalled. “I was like ‘Nah, I think that’s too dangerous’."
But Payne came prepared with a plan, and everyone knew she was serious.
“I knew she wanted it,” said Monroe. “It seemed like she already knew like ‘This is me, this is what I’m going to do.’ So I was just like "You sound like you don’t even really need my opinion. You just want to let me know you’re going forward'.”
The next thing they all knew, Payne was training to become a Shreveport police officer.
“Every day, I would talk to her every day," Payne’s mother said. “Well, we talked every day, all day when she was free anyway. But she was like it was so hard and how she was struggling.”
When Payne soon graduated from the academy, she and her mother made a pact.
“You have to call me when you get out of roll call or text me or something," Nash-Hudson recalled telling her daughter.
"I have to know what area you’re going to be in every night. Whenever you get a break, you have to call me or text me. And when you get off, you have to call me.”
The two talked every day up until that fateful day that changed her mother’s life.
“I picked up the phone to dial her number. And then I was like ‘Oh, wait, let me call and tell Terrell, my husband, something real quick.’ So I hung up and I called him,” Nash-Hudson said.
It was then she got a call from her daughter’s ex-boyfriend, who later became a suspect in her death.
“What is he calling for? ... Yeah, he called and told me she’d been shot.”
In that moment, the worst was running through Nash-Hudson’s mind.
“He killed my baby. That’s what I called my husband and told him.”
Nash-Hudson left work, picked up her granddaughter Aubreigh and they made their way to the hospital.
“They came in and they were like 'I got some good news, and I got some bad news. And he (the doctor) was like ‘She has a gunshot to her lung and we can fix that.’ And I was like 'Okay, I got a little bit of hope.
"Like we can do that and I can manage that. Then he was like ... ‘but she’s got the gunshot wound to her head, and it’s fatal.’
"And it was just like my world fell apart.”
The doctors let her finally see her daughter.
“I saw the (ventilator). I saw the chest tube. I saw where she was shot, all her gunshot wounds. She had one in her foot.
"I remember what her blood pressure (was), her heart rate and everything. I remember everything that was on her monitor. I remember everything.
"I remember how she smelled. It was like the weirdest smell. Her perfume, her favorite perfume, her Gucci Premiere and blood, like that metallic blood smell. I smell it and her hair products.
"All of that, I remember. I still have my uniform pants because it has her blood on it and I don’t ever want to let it go. I still have it.”
But soon Payne’s mother had to leave.
“I just asked him ‘Please, let me go back; please, don’t take her off the vent without me. Don’t let her be by herself.’
“But they did. All I can think about is her lying there and being shot and what is she thinking. I can’t rest because I just think about it. And then having to be by herself and I wasn’t there.”
Nash-Hudson says her daughter had plans to move and they had agreed to meet up the very next day to go furniture shopping.
“I just told her just come home," she said. "Come home until you get moved. Just come home, just come back home until we get the place together. Just come home. I don’t trust him. I don’t ... just come home.
Payne told her mother: "Momma, I’m not scared of him.”
For Payne’s best friends, it was the hardest thing they had to experience.
“I just started praying really hard,” said Ashley. “This is one of my greatest, closest, sister friends. (She’s) been there for me, and I’ve been there for her. We rocked together, rolled together.”
“It was devastating,” said Monroe. “It was the worst night of my life; I can honestly say that.”
On Jan. 19, Shreveport police Officer Chatéri Payne was laid to rest.
And her family and friends were left moving through life without her.
“Believe or not, I read every inbox that came because I didn’t sleep,” her mother said. “I still really don’t, and so that’s what I would do. Every inbox, every letter, every card, everything. I read everything.”
People throughout the community and people from across the country, some of whom Nash-Hudson didn’t even know, sent her so much stuff. Most of it hangs throughout her house.
“To know that people could see how genuine she was ... and to know that that resonated with a lot of people, they felt something from that. It was a sense of comfort,” said her mother. “It was something. And I just. ... I thank everybody for it.”
But a year has now passed without Payne and her mother admits she’s still struggling without her.
“We were so co-dependent. It’s kind of unhealthy and she would agree. I would be like ‘Girl, this ridiculous the way we are so dependent.’ And she used to tell me ‘What would you do without me?’
"And I would just tell her ‘I’m not doing good without you’.”
Nash-Hudson and her friends still imagine that Payne is not gone but instead is on a long trip.
“To me it’s still not realistic,” said Ashley. “I constantly ask God what can I do to bring her back.”
But with Payne’s daughter Aubreigh by Nash-Hudson’s side, she’s knows they’ll keep pushing through together.
“I would just tell her ‘Girl, I am tired (laughing). ... Get your baby. Get your talking, spoiled baby.' That’s what I would tell her. If she were here today, ‘Get your baby’."