ARLINGTON, Texas - As a competitor in the Special Olympics, 36-year-old Ross Steele got to know North Texas officers. He always greeted them with a smile and told them how much he appreciated their work.
When Ross died unexpectedly at a swimming practice, many of the same officers paid back his respect by paying their respects at his funeral.
Ross was in the ROTC program when he was at Bowie High School in Arlington. It was there the man with special needs developed a love for the military and a respect for police officers.
It had such an impact on Ross that several of them wanted to pay back that respect at his funeral.
Ross’ mom, Debbie Steele, says her son with special needs had more than just an appreciation for law enforcement.
“He admired them,” she said. “He would always go up to them and thank them for what they did. And the military men, he would always go up and thank them for their service."
Ross died nearly two weeks ago unexpectedly after what his family said was a heart attack during swim practice. At his funeral, officers from Mansfield, Arlington and Grand Prairie police departments showed their support for Ross just as he supported them.
"He sees the positive sides of everything and everyone,” said Arlington Police Detective Tim Henz. “Negatives are not in his makeup."
Since graduating high school, Ross participated in the Special Olympics. He competed in events like swimming, basketball, bowling and tennis.
It was at the Special Olympics and the police meet and greet events where many officers met him.
"He'd always salute us,” recalled Arlington Police Officer Dick Hill. “That was his big thing — smile and salute."
Mansfield Police Chief Tracy Aaron remembers meeting Ross and posing for a picture.
“Just to see the look on his face whenever he's able to stand in front of that police car and get his picture made was incredible to me as well,” he said.
"Ross had an impact on a lot of people,” Debbie said. “And that he showed so much kindness and love, they're returning that favor now by being here."