WEST ALTON, Mo. – The TreeHouse Wildlife Center released a bald eagle Sunday in honor of St. Louis County Police Officer Blake Snyder who was shot and killed in the line of duty. His widow, Elizabeth, has been part of the event and helped with the release of the eagle.

The event took place at the Audubon Center at the Riverlands in West Alton where Elizabeth Snyder carried a 2–year-old bald eagle while waiting for the countdown led by Rachael Heaton, the director of operations for the Treehouse Wildlife Center in Dow, BND.com reported.

After the countdown, Snyder raised the unnamed eagle and released him. He spread his brown wings revealing a 6-foot wingspan and flew toward the Mississippi River.

Elizabeth Snyder was a former intern at the wildlife center in 2015. She was pleased with the gesture of the center to honor her late husband. “The symbolism of it is incredible,” she said. “It really symbolizes what Blake was and what he did for his community. Eagles really represent bravery, loyalty, honesty – everything this nation stands for. I believe Blake symbolized all that as well.”

The 33-year-old St. Louis County police officer Blake Snyder was responding to reports of a disturbance last Thursday in Green Park when he spotted the suspect heading from a house to his car. The suspect gunned him down “point blank” and he sustained a fatal wound. He had served four years with the St. Louis County Police Department.

Upon learning of what happened to Officer Snyder, Heaton said staff members of the wildlife center wanted to pay tribute to him. “We knew her real well and are familiar with the family. When we heard about what happened it was just tragic,” Heaton said. “We tried to think of something we could do, and we thought this was the best we could offer her (and) it’s the symbol of our nation.”

The wildlife center took care of the eagle for a few months after he was found in the Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri with feather damage and believed to be incapable of hunting at the time. He has recently regained his strength back. “He’s a strong flyer,” Heaton said.

Nancy Schwalb has a son that works for the Washington State Park Service. She joined several hundred people witnessing the release of the eagle. “(We’re) just supporting law enforcement, with my son being law enforcement,” she said. “We’ve got to start supporting law enforcement; there’s been too much tragedy both ways. They give their life to protect and serve.”