WOODLAND PARK, Colo. (KDVR) — FOX31 is checking back in with Sam Dunbar, a young man who said he planned to pursue a career in law enforcement as a result of a tragedy.

That tragedy is the King Soopers mass shooting, where 10 people were killed. On Thursday night, Dunbar turned the community’s pain into purpose, graduating from the police academy and becoming an officer.

FOX31 first met Dunbar when he was 19, not long after that shooting happened in Boulder. He’s now 21 and said Officer Eric Talley’s death inspired him to become a cop.

“I don’t think it’s set in yet,” Dunbar said. “I mean, I’m in this uniform and I’m getting a badge. Maybe it’ll hit then.”

Dunbar is becoming a police officer with the Woodland Park Police Department.

“When this shooting happened and Officer Eric Talley was killed, for me at least, this made sense. All of this made sense,” Dunbar said.

Late officer’s family attends police graduation

The reaction of family and friends has been mixed. But his decision is unwavering. 

“People have told me, ‘Wow, you really shouldn’t be doing this, it’s a bad time to get in.’ or it’s a, ‘Well, thank you for doing this, it’s a bad time to get in.'”

Officers with the Boulder Police Department surprised Dunbar with the late Talley’s challenge coin. 

Those are extremely rare. Talley’s family was also in attendance for Dunbar’s graduation.

“I try not to look too far into the future, but as far as a long and rewarding career, I have no doubt, I’ll have a pretty good career,” Dunbar said. “I’m really excited to get started and I’m sure it’ll fly by, for sure.”

Dunbar is set to start later this month.