EASLEY, S.C. (WSPA) – The community is coming together to honor an Upstate officer who was killed in the line of duty.

Officer Matthew Hare, 22, was killed Wednesday morning while responding to help a person having a mental health crisis.

Now, his patrol car is parked outside of the Easley Police Department as the community mourns the tragic loss. It is covered with flowers, stuffed toys, and messages calling him a hero.

“I would call him a hero. Yes, I would,” said Easley resident, Bob Dean, as he paid his respects for the fallen officer Thursday morning.

Officer Hare was a young man who, the Easley Police Department said, was excited to do his job and protect the community.

That’s exactly what police said Hare was doing when he was hit and killed Wednesday morning.

“We need that protection, and we need young men like this that are willing to risk their lives to save someone else that was in trouble,” said Dean.

On Thursday, community members spent time visiting the memorial for Hare outside of the Easley Police Department and left flowers and other tokens of appreciation.

“It was good to see the community rally. To see the community in Liberty, Easley, Pickens come together, it’s really special to see,” said Seth Terry, Liberty resident who traveled with his family to visit the memorial.

Officer Hare’s roots stretch deep into the community.

From Kindergarten through twelfth grade, Hare spent many years in the halls and on the playing fields at Pickens County schools.

“He did his entire education career through our Pickens County Schools,” said Darian Byrd with the School District of Pickens County.

Byrd was Hare’s assistant principal during his time at East End Elementary School and said he watched him grow.

“Memories of Matthew was just being one of those kids that always did the right thing,” said Byrd.

Even at an early age, Byrd said Hare made a lasting impression on the community.

“He just was just a great kid, always smiling, made a strong impression on all of his teachers and someone to strive to be like,” said Byrd.

That smile, Byrd told 7NEWS, is how he remembers Officer Hare. He said he was a kid with a big heart that went on to play football and wrestle at Easley High School. Hare later went on to serve his community at the Easley Police Department.

“It just shows the character that he had. He put himself in danger to save someone else. He knew what he was getting into with law enforcement but for that to happen, that’s going to be a lasting impact on this community,” said Byrd.

In his honor, the Easley Police Department has set up a memorial fund for Officer Hare and his family.

Police said they are working with his family to finalize funeral arrangements.