Telling 18-year-old Kazzie Portie his parents had been killed by an alleged drunk driver was one of the toughest things Eric Ellison has had to do in his 21 years as a police officer—but he definitely had a heart big enough for the job. The Orange, Texas, officer tells BuzzFeed that he found Kazzie, the youngest of the couple's five children, at home alone. He says after he broke the terrible news, the teen told him he was just days away from his high school graduation and didn't know what to do. "I said, 'You are going to walk!'" Ellison says. "'Your mom and dad will have front-row seats looking down from heaven, and I'll stand in their place. I've got your back.'"
At Kazzie's graduation ceremony on Saturday, Ellison was the first onstage to congratulate him as the entire senior class cheered, and the officer hugged the teen in a photo that went viral, 12 News reports. "If you didn't have a wet eye, you needed to check your pulse. The Montagne Center was the loudest I ever heard it," Ellison tells the station. "The class of 2015, 245 seniors and their families, on their feet and everyone right behind him." Kazzie, who still hopes to go to college, tells BuzzFeed the officer's support "meant the world" to him and it was "so nice to see that he actually showed a genuine care for me and my family's situation instead of us just being another 'case.'" (This officer in Kentucky went beyond the call of duty when he saw a marathon runner struggling.)