Five-year-old Dakota Pitts had a tough day ahead of him on Monday: he was returning to school for the first time since losing his father in the line of duty a little over a week ago. 

Dakota’s dad, Officer Rob Pitts, was a 16-year veteran of the Terre Haute Police Department in Indiana. He was one of four officers who responded to a call earlier this month and found themselves in the middle of a shootout with a homicide victim. Pitts was the only officer killed. The last time the department lost an officer in the line of duty was almost seven years ago. 

For his first day back, Dakota had one simple request; he asked his mother if one of his father’s friends could drive him to school. When he arrived that day, he got so much more. 

Lined up outside Sullivan Elementary were 70 Terre Haute Police Officers and Vigo County Sheriff’s Deputies, including the department’s SWAT team. The SWAT officers even gave Dakota his own SWAT t-shirt and badge. 

The Indiana officers present that day said they wanted Dakota to know they will always be there for him. 

Officer Pitts’ sister, Kelli Jones, who was also there, told WTHI-TV the sight gave her chills. 

“He [Dakota] will definitely know his dad was a hero,” she said. “Blood doesn’t always make family. And I think the blue family went above and beyond.”

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