For as long as Kevin Truesdale can remember, people have told him he’s just like his father. Same thick build, same laugh, same sense of humor.
But Truesdale never knew his father. William Truesdale, an Alexandria sheriff’s deputy, was killed in the line of duty when his son was an infant.
Kevin Truesdale, now 30, said he has always aimed to follow in his father’s footsteps. But he bounced between jobs until, spurred by the city’s decision to name the city jail after his father, he was guided to the same department his father worked in. Truesdale was sworn in as a deputy Thursday.
“This is a goal I set when I was 6 years old,” Truesdale said this week. He attributes some of his motivation to his own passion for law enforcement — but most of it to his father’s memory.
A small street near the detention center already bore Truesdale’s name. But more needed to be done to memorialize the only Alexandria sheriff’s deputy to die in the line of duty, said Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, who was in the honor guard at Truesdale’s funeral while Lawhorne was an Alexandria police officer three decades ago.
“This shows that we do not forget,” said Lawhorne.
Chief Deputy Lenny George contacted Kevin’s mother, Zita Truesdale-Noyes, in September about plans to rename the jail. When Kevin Truesdale heard the news, he decided to apply to the department; his application was accepted. In December, the date for the renaming ceremony was set; Truesdale’s application finally crossed Lawhorne’s desk about two weeks ago.
Truesdale had passed his entrance exam, polygraph test, background investigation, and physical and psychological tests. He did well on his interview and had great references, according to Lawhorne. “He was a good candidate for the agency,” he said.
On Thursday, Truesdale-Noyes and about two dozen family members and friends came to Alexandria to see the swearing-in, the naming of the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center and the unveiling of a granite monument in the slain deputy’s honor.
As a large black cloth was lifted from the detention center’s brick facade and his father’s name was revealed, a tear rolled down Kevin Truesdale’s right cheek. His wife, Malvorzata, wiped it away.
“What better way to pay tribute to his father than to serve in the same capacity as he did and continue his father’s legacy?” Lawhorne said.
William Truesdale left behind four children, including 6-month-old Kevin, when he was killed Jan. 27, 1981. He was escorting prisoner Wilbert Lee Evans to the Alexandria jail when Evans grabbed Truesdale’s gun, shot him, shot off the handcuffs that attached him to another prisoner, and fled.
Evans was caught under a car a short time later in Old Town and was executed in 1991.
Truesdale-Noyes, who remarried four years ago, said she often sees her former husband in her youngest son in his height, his build, his love for fishing and dancing, his playful nature — and his stubborn streak.
“Years ago, I told him I didn’t want him to be a police officer, but he wouldn’t change his mind,” Truesdale-Noyes said. “Now I think he’s making the right choice for his family. I figured it’s his destiny to be a deputy sheriff.”
As a child, Truesdale remembers seeing his father’s pictures and memorial plaques around the house. He started asking questions about his dad when he was about 5, when he realized most of the other kids in his Landover neighborhood had fathers and he didn’t.
“My mom explained what happened,” he said. “She’d tell me age-appropriate things.”
His desire to emulate his father didn’t waver in his teens, Truesdale said. But he felt out of place at Bladensburg High School, dropping out when he was 17 to work and help his mother pay bills.
He got a job in the loss-prevention department at Six Flags America in Landover. That was followed by a series of jobs in Maryland and South Florida, most of them working security at hotels and department stores. He was a volunteer firefighter in Bladensburg.
“Kevin was a wandering kind,” Truesdale-Noyes said. “He couldn’t find that niche.”
His life started to come into clearer focus while he was working as a security supervisor at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, Md. He fell in love with a cocktail waitress, and they married four years ago. Kevin and Malvorzata now have a son, Kevin Jr., who is almost 2.
While his wife was pregnant, Truesdale decided to go back to school. He found a program that allowed him to work toward his high school diploma, and he completed it when he was 28. “I wanted better for myself,” Truesdale said. “I didn’t want to be classified as a typical dropout.”
On Monday, Kevin Truesdale will report to the jail for work. The thought of being in his father’s uniform and transporting prisoners gives him a feeling of calm, he says.
“It feels peaceful, if that makes sense,” he said. “Life was a little rocky, but it’s come full circle.”