SPRINGFIELD, Va. — Members of the Fantasy Flight X-Wing game community who play at Curio Cavern can often be spotted wearing t-shirts with a simple slogan: "Fly casual."
The store in Springfield sits in a quiet section of Spring Mall Square. Anyone driving by who hasn't been to the business likely doesn't know about the close-knit friendships formed inside over games like Magic: The Gathering.
US Capitol Police Officer Billy Evans was one of the X-Wing players who became a common sight at the store over the years, sometimes for the weekly tournaments held on Tuesday nights.
Each competitor of the Star Wars game has their own style, choosing what ships they want to use and the strategy they want to follow against one another.
While many new faces drop in from time to time and some games bring big stakes, Evans always made them feel welcome.
"Even while people were bringing their power gaming lists, Billy was the kind of person who was there to have a good time," Curio Cavern owner Tom Haid. "He was definitely one of those opponents where there is not going to be any anxiety or stress. You’re going to have a good time and probably going to laugh a little bit.”
Evans was particularly known for his love of the K-Wing, one of the battleships seen in various battles of Star Wars lore.
Haid said Evans would sometimes bring his children along to check out some of the games or items being sold at the store.
While he became a regular, Haid said Evans rarely talked about his job as a Capitol Police officer, which he held for almost two decades.
"I got the impression that this is more kind of like a different world for him," Haid said. "I imagine that the environment of being a Capitol Police officer was very different than the one in a gaming community.”
Years of games at Curio Cavern led to Evans forming friendships with many of the fellow X-Wing players at the store.
About two weeks ago, Haid said Evans stopped by like everything was normal.
However, Haid didn't know it would be the last time the two saw one another.
Last Friday, Officer Evans tragically died while on duty at the US Capitol.
According to investigators, a suspect rammed a car into Evans and another officer on patrol near a barricade outside the building.
Evans was just 42-years-old and left behind two children.
"Billy was the best father, son, brother, and friend anyone could ever hope for," the family wrote in a statement released on Tuesday. "His death has left a gaping void in our lives that will never be filled. The absolute most important thing in his life was his two children, Logan and Abigail. His most cherished moments were those spent with them -- building with Lego, having lightsaber duels, playing board games, doing arts and crafts, and recently finishing the Harry Potter series."
"Any opportunity to spend time with his children brightened both their lives and his. Their dad was their hero long before the tragic events of last week."
After hearing the death of Evans, Haid added that it was still tough to believe days later.
"On that day I got the news, I broke down and cried in the back of the store," he said. "I kept thinking about his kids. I was in the back of my shop when I was thinking about what his kids must be going through.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced Tuesday that Evans will lie in honor in the United States Capitol Rotunda on April 13, a tribute reserved for the nation's most eminent private citizens.
Moving forward, games will keep being played and friendships will keep being formed at Curio Cavern.
However, Haid said fellow X-Wing competitors were trying to find ways to honor the legacy of Evans.
One idea included awarding a prize in his honor for a player in his favorite game.
"They already talked about doing a good sportsmanship prize and having it become the 'Billy Evans Award'," Haid said. "Billy is a big part of that welcoming environment and he’s definitely going to be missed.”