A Story: Bar Life & Paying It Forward

“Dave took care of me throughout my life.  I was depressed after grad school, having not found a job.  He always asked me out after he was done with work and bought me drinks on his tab.  Every time I saw him, it seemed like he introduced me to a new character.  People from all walks of life seemed to get along with him.   After drinking and socializing, at the end of the night, he usually joked with me about being a freeloader and paying him back… which I fully intended to do.  And after that, we usually headed to his place to play Xbox.  As soon as I finally got my job in Seattle, the first thing I did when I got back was ask David how I could pay him back.  It just happened, when I saw him he was out with about 10 friends and he said I could take care of their tab.  I said ”Ok, no problem”, even though it didn’t make up for the tens of times he took care of me at Forum and Bar None.  After I paid the bill, he said we were settled up.  This was the guy David was, instead of paying him back he told me to pay it forward.”

~ Greg T., Friend

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In Memory: 04/25/16

“Polite. Offer you’re life. Loving to us. inspire us. care. exelent.
I pledge to the people who serve their live’s for Mine. Roses are red. Violets are blue. Sorry for you’re loss, I’m sorry for you.”
~ Maya

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A Story: How To Save A Life, Part II

Dave seemed to have a knack for saving people’s lives. Here’s a second such story.

“I remember the first times I saw David. He’d be by himself, drinking in my bar. David always was super well-behaved and kind of shy. I liked his glasses and they way his eyes blinked behind them reminded me of a baby bat. He always drank strong drinks, tipped well, and never got rowdy or hit on the girls. Finally, I asked him what his deal was, because he came alone but didn’t seem to need to meet people. “I’m a cop,” he said simply. I poured him a shot on the house. We became friends.

One night, later in our friendship, I was breaking up with my fiancee and it was a very rocky time in my life. David insisted on taking a cab with me to my house. On the bridge, I tried to jump out of the cab into traffic. I had been able to open the door, but David was fast and strong, slammed the door shut and held me close in his arms. I burst into tears and he remained calm. He just stayed with me until I was ok.

I cannot imagine the pain you must be going through. David was rare. He was an inspiration. He was a gentleman and a hero and a real man, and I will never forget him. I wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for him, I truly believe that.”

Marian L., Friend

In Memory: 04/21/16

“Dear the COPS of Euless, I know that you lost an officer on March 1st. But just because you lost one doesn’t mean that you’re not a team anymore. You guys are the heros of Euless, you are the ones that protect this city. There would be many problems if you guys weren’t there. Don’t be sad, be happy to know that he is in a better place. He wouldn’t want you to be sad, he would want you to be happy. Sincerely, Dane from Harmony School of Innovation-Euless (5th Grade)”

 

My Brother Was Killed Because He Wore A Uniform

I know this is a longer piece than normal, but I hope you will take the time to read this to the very end. And, if you think this is an important message, PLEASE share this to your networks.
Edit: For some, perhaps, unexpected responses to this piece, please check out this post.

Just days before my brother David was murdered, we had hatched a plan. He would fly into New York City from Texas and meet me at Newark Airport to pick up our older brother Boris and niece Valerie who were arriving from Taiwan. Our goal: to surprise our dad for his 60th birthday. For the past decade one of us had always been missing from our gatherings. The surprise, awkwardly captured on an iPhone, was as wonderful as could be imagined. There is a video of David and our dad encouraging Valerie to a wild high-five-off; photos of David in a sparkling cowboy hat, holding a mug of whiskey, gleefully teasing my mom about her liberal politics; and the recollection of a serious conversation between David and me about his plans for the future.  Two days later, David was ambushed and shot in the line of duty as a police officer.

On March 1st, a deranged young man set a trap in a local Euless, Texas, park. Ignoring the park visitors and near-by school, he assumed a position in a hidden area, carefully laid out various loaded weapons and fired off a few rounds. Those shots gained the attention of community members who called 911. “Shots fired” is considered a routine call in this area of Texas, usually easily explained by fireworks or the testing of a legal gun. David was not assigned the call – he was a “rover” that shift so he could go wherever needed. Knowing my brother, he heard that his good friends were answering the call and decided to back them up. David was the first on scene, noticed movement by a drainage pipe behind a bush and directed the person to show his hands. David was shot in the head. Chaos followed. The valor on the part of other officers prevented an even more devastating tragedy. However, ultimately the details are immaterial. My brother died.

David did not die because he made a bad decision or took an unnecessary risk. He did not die because he didn’t have enough training or adequate equipment. He died because he wore a uniform.

My brother’s path to becoming a police officer was not an obvious one. Born into a liberal, academic family, David attended a private liberal arts school in Brooklyn Heights (where he was a puppeteer, poet and Chinese language student), and later New York University. He was well-traveled and had been presented with a wealth of experiences and opportunities. His decision to become a police officer stemmed from his experience during 9/11 when he was fifteen. In the midst of the tragedy unfolding in New York City, my brother focused on the people who were working to make things better: the firefighters, the police, the EMTs, the community members lining the streets with water and snacks. The experience was so powerful that he wrote a multitude of poems contemplating the sacrifices required of those brave souls who make others’ safety their calling. Years later, against all expectations and to the great confusion of those closest to him, who had expected him to grow out of these aspirations, David joined the NYPD after college. He became a police officer with the idealistic vision to help make New York City a better place.

As bits and pieces of his biography have made their way into articles and news clips these past weeks, many have been tempted to mourn his loss as an “exceptional officer” in an otherwise problematic institution. This is a mistake.

There are countless reasons why my brother should be alive today, chief among them to give lessons to us all about how to care for one another. Yet, in that regard my brother is not an exception. There are many caring police officers who do good in an incredibly challenging profession. Unfortunately, we tend not to honor these officers. Rather, what makes the news out of the millions of positive interactions officers have with people daily are the very small number of these interactions that devolve into an abuse of power.  Most officers want to and do do their jobs well. They want to keep our streets safe. They want to help those who need help. They want to solve problems in their communities. However, instead of becoming teachers or social workers or psychologists, they chose to make a difference as a first responder, navigating the acute emergencies and difficulties that crop up in each of our lives.

In the aftermath of David’s death, we’ve heard a lot of stories about him from the officers who worked most closely with him. One of his colleagues from the 9th Precinct in NYC told me about how the two of them came across a severely emotionally-disturbed woman. She was rocking and screaming in the middle of a NYC street. His friend, an ex-marine with more years on the job than David, said he would have placed the woman in cuffs, made sure she couldn’t harm anyone, and then talked to her. My brother took a different approach. He started chatting with her, trying to calm her without having to take such measures. The result was that she slapped him straight across the face. My brother, knowing that she wasn’t a true threat first turned to his fellow officer and then back to her and said: “Did she just slap me? You just slapped me! You can’t do that.” The story goes on until the woman is voluntarily strapped into the ambulance and sheepishly looks at my brother and says: “I’m sorry.”

This is what made my brother remarkable. He could create a connection to any other person. Even someone out of touch with reality could recognize his humanity. He conveyed his care and respect for people in many ways, but what the world seems to remember most fondly is his characteristic sense of humor. He could lighten any situation with a self-effacing joke, a bit of quick wit, or the adoption of an absurd German accent. He could bridge worlds. At a gathering after the memorial service in NYC, one officer made a futile attempt to understand this tragedy. He couldn’t. Confused, he could only say: “He loved everyone and everyone loved him: black or white, young or old, rich or poor. He could reach everyone.” My brother’s gift was his ease at bridging the gaps between people. He just happened to be wearing a uniform while doing this job.

We need dedicated first responders in order to help and protect our communities. If we are to promote healing between law enforcement and the communities they serve, we cannot allow ourselves to be guided by negative assumptions about what it means to wear a uniform, just as we cannot allow ourselves to be guided by assumptions about what it means to come from a certain zip code or have a certain skin color. The willingness to heal has to come from each one of us.

We are only presented with the images and stories that represent the polarizing extremes: a cop being killed; a cop behaving badly. But, life happens mostly in between and that is where the acts of kindness are, unknown to most of us.

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[Photo Credit: “The Human U.S. Shield” by 30,000 officers and men by Arthur Mole: This is a picture taken in 1918, which depicts 30,000 officers and men arranged into giant human US Shield. The photographer’s goal was to create a series of images that would help Americans feel good about themselves and boost patriotism.]

A Story: #904

This note was sent, anonymously, by one of the Euless PD officers. Thank you so much for sharing.

“A few months ago, when we were on shift together, Dave sent me a message through our unit computers and asked, “Where you at?” I told him I was catching up on paperwork at Midway Park. He rolls up a short time later in his patrol unit (#904) and, with a serious face, asks: “Bro, smell my unit. Do you smell anything?” Knowing Dave, I immediately assumed he was trying to set me up for a fart joke, so I told him, “Brother, I’m not going to pull your finger.” He laughed, but again, with a serious face, says: “For real. Tell me, does my car smell like a cigar?” He apparently couldn’t resist the urge to try out a stogie around Christmas time and I couldn’t blame him. His unit did smell a bit like a cigar, but the boys at our local car wash fixed him up good. Just don’t tell Chief.

That was what I used to think of every time I saw unit 904. It was, until that day at least, when he was again in Unit 904. His unit sat parked where he put it at that park when he arrived to assist his brothers. It sat there for hours after that God forsaken moment he was taken from us. None of us wanted to move or touch or disturb anything with it. We wanted it to be just as Dave left it. As if, somehow, maybe Dave would come pick it back up and drop it back off at base. I know, it doesn’t make any sense. Nothing on that day did. It still doesn’t. I don’t know. I know I won’t drive 904 anymore though. That’s Dave’s unit.

Rest easy brother.”

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