London Attack: Tributes pour in for slain police officer Keith Palmer
PC Keith Palmer, the police officer who was fatally stabbed by an attacker outside of the U.K. Parliament, was honoured for his bravery and dedication to his country Thursday.
Tributes poured in for the slain officer, a member of the U.K.’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command with 15 years of service, as Londoners came to grips with an attack British Prime Minister Theresa May described as “an attack on free people everywhere.”
Palmer was killed Wednesday after an attacker, who has yet to be named, drove an SUV into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing the vehicle into the gates of Parliament on Wednesday. He scaled the fences and stabbed Palmer before being gunned down by officers.
Palmer, 48, was a husband and a father to a five-year-old daughter. He was unarmed when the attacker came running towards him.
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“Our parliamentary protection team are a combination of armed and unarmed officers doing different roles and sadly the officer who lost his life today was unarmed. He was supported by armed colleagues, who shot and killed the attacker,” said Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley.
“He was someone who left for work expecting to return home at the end of his shift and he had every right to expect that would happen.”
British Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood was also hailed a hero for his efforts to save Palmer’s life, running to his side to give him CPR and mouth-to-mouth after the attack.
Pictures of the Foreign Minister hunched over the injured officer, blood smeared on his face, circulated on social media as news of the incident spread. According to The Telegraph, Ellwood stayed at the side of the injured officer until an air ambulance landed in Parliament Square. He was later seen speaking to officers, with blood stains on his clothing.
In a statement released by Metropolitan Police, Palmer’s family said, “Keith will be remembered as a wonderful dad and husband. A loving son, brother and uncle. A long-time supporter of Charlton FC. Dedicated to his job and proud to be a police officer, brave and courageous.”
“When I heard what had happened I knew it would be him because that’s just the sort of guy he was, to step straight in when others might step back,” said PC James Aitkenhead, who worked alongside Palmer.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan commended the officer for his bravery Thursday, saying Palmer “was doing the job he loved and protecting our city, protecting Parliament, protecting Londoners, unarmed, and he died in the course of his duty. And I pay tribute to him.”
Parliament, which was locked down for hours following the attack, was back to business Thursday, but not before a moment of silence which began at 9:33 a.m., in honour of the badge number worn on Palmer’s shoulder. Police later said they would retire his shoulder number in his memory.
“He was every inch a hero,” May said during a speech before Parliament Thursday. “And his actions will never be forgotten.”
On Twitter, Conservative MP James Cleverly paid tribute to his friend, who he described as a “lovely man.”
“I’ve known Keith for 25 years. We served together in the Royal Artillery before he became a copper. A lovely man, a friend. I’m heartbroken,” Cleverly wrote. “My thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of PC Keith Palmer. A brave man.”
Those who knew the officer described him as a loving father and husband, but above all someone who cared about their job and dedication to their country.
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“He was a wonderful dad and a wonderful husband to his wife. He was fun, he was a laugh, he cared. I know everyone, when someone passes, why do they always say he was such a lovely person, but he actually really was. And he cared about what he was doing, he actually cared about his job,” a women, who only identified herself as “Nina,” told The Guardian.
The woman also credited Palmer for saving her life during a car accident in 2007.
“I owe him everything,” she told the newspaper.
Countless social media users also took to Twitter to thank Palmer for his service.
On Thursday May said the attacker was once investigated for extremist links but was considered a peripheral figure. She didn’t disclose his name.
May said police believe the man acted alone and there is no reason to believe “imminent further attacks” are planned. She noted Britain’s terror alert level would not be raised, but would remain at “severe” meaning “an attack is highly likely.”
Police said four people died during the attack, including the attacker, Palmer and two civilians. 29 people required hospitalization and seven of them were in critical condition; however, authorities are still working out the number of “walking wounded.”
– With files from The Associated Press
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