Family, friends mourn the death of girl hit by CPD officer driving

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COLUMBIA - Friends and family gathered at Battle High School on Saturday night to mourn the death of 4-year-old Gabbie Curry.

The vigil started at 5 p.m. People brought flowers and stuffed animals to honor Curry. Columbia Police officer Andria Heese drove onto the sidewalk and hit Curry Friday afternoon, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the investigating agency in the incident. 

The start of the vigil included one lady singing, 'Jesus Loves Me' as the family knelt down placing candles and more stuffed animals where the incident happened.  

Rev. James Gray said at the vigil this is a time for people to be there for the parents of Gabbie.

"We can listen. We can be there. We can lift them up and support them," he said. 

Gray also gave words of encouragement to the family in prayer.

"As the family goes to make preparations and to make arrangements, not to say goodbye, but see you later, Gabbie. And that smile that you are going to be waiting for us in the great sky one day," he said. 

Gray said he wants to start a scholarship in Curry's name. This scholarship would benefit the three other children in the Curry family, giving them money to go to college. 

The vigil concluded with friends and family going up to Curry's parents and paying their respects. 

During Gray's prayer, he also spoke about officer Heese.

"We need to lift her up also because she's going through a hard time," he said. 

The Columbia Police Department said Friday it placed Heese on administrative leave.

Heese was part of the department's Community Outreach Unit. According to the city's website, she was assigned to the East Strategic Plan Neighborhood.

On July 28, 2018, a KOMU 8 reporter spoke with Heese at a community barbecue for the neighborhood.

She said it is important for police to work with the community to solve crimes. Part of that is by establishing relationships, she said.

"The community needs to know that they have officers that care about them and that are here for them even when bad things don't happen," Heese said.

She said her unit visits schools.

"That has showed so much benefits in kids just not being afraid of us. They come up and say 'hi' to us," she said. "They ask for stickers now. They know us by name in the schools we go to, and that is a huge relationship builder."

She said she looks to go beyond just responding to calls by seeing ways police can make problems better. 

In December 2015, the Columbia Police Department featured Heese in a video about why she wears the badge. 

Heese said she always had "a big heart for serving people."

In the video, she said she grew up in Columbia and enjoys contributing to her community.

She said she first decided she wanted to be a police officer as a senior in high school, but there was struggle with the decision. She said she was born with a slight disability in her right leg.

"Everything from physical activity to just walking normally or anything like that was always a struggle," she said. "I’ve since overcome it to the point where it doesn’t really effect anything that I do. But, I mean, that was the biggest challenge and the decision was could I really do this job."

Heese said becoming an officer is the best decision she ever made.

There is no set date for Gabbie's funeral.