By Debby Schamber

For The Record

Sometimes being a police officer is more than patrolling the streets or investigating crimes. One local officer took his job duties a step further to help Little Cypress-Mauriceville graduating senior, Kazzie Portie.

Riley and Emily Portie, Kazzie’s parents, were tragically killed as they rode their motorcycle on May 24 when an alleged drunk driver went over the railroad tracks on West Park Ave. and struck them.  The driver of the pickup truck was Travis Collins, 29, of Orange. He is charged with two counts of intoxication manslaughter. If found guilty he faces up to 20 years in prison on each count.

Lt. Eric Ellison, a 21 year veteran of the Orange Police Department,  was tasked with breaking the tragic news to the next of kin. When he arrived, Kazzie, 18, was home alone. Ellison knew this time would be one of the most difficult in his career.

During their conversation Kazzie revealed he had an upcoming graduation ceremony within a few days. The youngest child of 5 boys told Ellison how excited and proud his parents had been about the upcoming event. Kazzie admitted he wasn’t sure he could go through with it without his parents love and support.

Ellison made the teen a promise he would stand in his parents’ place. “I told him ‘you’re going to walk and your folks are going to have a front row seat and I’m going to be there,’” Ellison said.

Kazzie did attend graduation with his classmates.

True to his word Ellison stood at the end of the stage. Kazzie went through the traditional walk and accepted his diploma and shook the hands of administrators and school board members as he made his way across the stage at the Montagne Center in Beaumont. Kazzie was exiting the stage when he came to where Ellison was waiting.

“I walked up on the stage he looked at me and I looked at him and we both cried and that’s OK,” Ellison said.

The pair hugged as the crowd stood and erupted in cheers. The class of 2015 with 245 graduating seniors showed their support for their fellow classmate by adding to the clamor. The noise level was said to be the loudest it had ever been.

“I could feel the love and support from everyone,” Kazzie said.

The emotionally charged moment caused many to shed tears.

Ellison said it was the LC-M community which helped to create the overflowing show of support for Kazzie.

Cameras captured the moment and were posted to social media. The pictures,videos and story went viral as people shared with friends and their family members. As a result, the story has gone around the world.

I am simply amazed that Kazzie Portie’s story has gone viral to several news sources. I just want everybody to remember that through this tragedy, this was ALL about Kazzie and his day to shine. I just did what I would want someone to do if I had left my girls early,” written by Ellison on a Facebook post.

Kazzie said he did not expect the story to go viral.

“I am just a kid from Orange,” he added.

Kazzie has received messages from people from faraway places such as the Netherlands. Some share their hardships with him while some say his story inspires them. One man said Kazzie’s story inspired him to contact his estranged family of 15 years. In addition, Kazzie gave his phone number to a few people who were experiencing similar circumstances. They talked on the phone sharing their thoughts.

For the many people who have emailed and posted on  Kazzie’s Facebook page, he tries to give a honest and genuine reply. His goal is to help others.

Kazzie is looking towards his future and has been applying at colleges. He hopes to go into chemical engineering or medical sales.

For Ellison he will continue to patrol the streets of Orange. But, he knows of the many struggles in life. He thinks Kazzie will go far as he goes forward on his journey through life.

Photo: The hug felt around the world as Lt. Eric Ellison, of the Orange Police Department, keeps his promise to Kazzie Portie and goes to the Little Cypress-Mauriceville graduation. Kazzie’s parents were killed just days before the teen was to graduate from high school. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Fruge