A Story: Walking Besides Us

Some of the stories and anecdotes that you lovely people have sent me have been unbelievably moving, but this one just brought me to tears. It truly exemplifies the kind of person Dave was – how he always observed his world and looked out for the well-being of those around him; how he always thought of the little things that could make someone’s day a little brighter. Thank you so, so much, Cindy, for sending us this story.

I worked with David in the 9th precinct. I was his timekeeper. I wanted to give you my sincere condolences. I’m sure you know this better than anyone but he was a amazing man. I sent this same memory to Marta a few days after the services.

On May 14, 2013 I was awaken at close to midnight by multiple phone calls to tell me my fiancé was involved in a motorcycle accident and that he needed me at the hospital. When I arrived I was told he didn’t make it. It’s a day I will never forget and a pain that has yet to leave me. The reason why I’m sharing this with you is because I only chose to take a week off from work at the 9th precinct. I wanted to go back because I knew the support I had there was beyond no other and the work would keep my mind occupied.

I remember coming back to work and seeing David and the hug that he gave me that left me breathless (literally he squeezed me so tight I thought I was going to die) after he hugged me he extended his arms while still holding my shoulders and asked where I was headed. I told him I was going to buy something to eat and immediately he said I’ll drive you wherever you’d like to go. I smiled and thanked him but told him I’d rather go alone, that I could use the walk and fresh air because it had been a rough day for me and I’d been crying on and off all morning. He asked if I was sure and I said yes and thanked him.

As I walked up the street I glanced behind me to see him walking a few paces behind me. I turned to ask him where he was going and he said he was giving me my space but was taking the walk with me and wanted to make sure I was ok. He followed me to the deli and waited outside and then followed me back to the precinct. He did this without saying a word to me. All day he was poking his head into the payroll office just to check on me without saying a word. I’d just see his head peaking in from around the corner. Later on I asked him why he’d followed me to the store instead of walking with me and his response was: “I wanted to give you your space and also make sure you were safe. Besides, I had a feeling your fiancé was walking beside you and I didn’t want to intrude.” (He must’ve heard me talking to myself.) That brought instant tears to my eyes but also a comfort to my heart.

Needless to say everyday that I saw him I had a shadow and it made me laugh so hard but also helped me because every time he did it, I was at a weak/down moment and no one else noticed it but him. He had a heart of gold and will be truly missed.

The last time I spoke to David last month he congratulated me on joining the academy but tried so hard to convince me to join the academy in Euless. I promised him that I would come out to visit and he told me: “I guarantee you once you visit you’re never going to want to leave.” I was looking forward to that vacation but am grateful, thankful and blessed to be able to say that I knew him, and more importantly that he was a friend.

I don’t know what it feels like to have someone take the life of my loved one so violently but I do know what it feels like to have spoken to my fiancé and kiss him sadly for the last time and not even know it. So, I can relate to Marta’s pain although no two people mourn the same. My prayer for you and the family is that you find the strength and peace within your hearts so that you may feel the comfort and security he is still providing for you all. He’s not watching you from up above. He’s walking beside you. May you and the family be blessed now and always.

Love always,

Cindy J., NYPD

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A Tribute: On Valuing Bonds

“When it came time for Dave to go to Texas, I was sad to see him go but incredibly happy for him to start a new journey and new chapter in life. As is everything in life, things and friendships change. Unfortunately, the frequency of our interactions grew further apart and I had invested into a new relationship myself as life seemed to begin moving in a new direction. I still managed to keep a brief contact with Dave and exclaimed to him how awesome his proposal was and how difficult he made it for many men to follow lol.

I now find myself dealing with feeling and emotions I cannot say I’ve ever felt in my life and that I cannot contain. I know the feelings are due to how genuine and true of a person Dave was and how difficult it is to comprehend that he is no longer here. I have had relationships that have come and gone during my time in this life, but Dave was much, much different. He valued the people he had bonds with, no matter how short or how long. He would show genuine interest and simply wanted everyone and anyone to come together and enjoy one another’s company. Dave had a wonderful heart and I hope and believe he is now at rest, looking down at all the wonderful relationships he had and lives he touched.”

~ B.B., NYPD

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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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

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: A First Winter Getaway With The Hofers

“Dave and I were a perfectly odd couple. I was short, overweight, and obsessed with football, and he was tall, lanky, and obsessed with building computers. I was outgoing, he was introverted. I started to grow facial hair very early on, while Dave was lucky if he could get 3 hairs on his chin.

Sharing mutual interests proved impossible. I retained 0% of the information he shared about computers and gaming, and playing sports was a reach for David. I remember one year even trying to teach him how to play football. At 6’4 and 190 lbs (still in high school) he would be a great safety, I thought! Little did I know he had the coordination of a newborn giraffe learning how to walk. All I can say is that football was clearly never in Dave’s future. It wasn’t hobbies that brought us together, it was support systems and safety nets. He was a very compassionate and trusting friend that provided me a safe space to grow up in. I was social and friendly, so I was a safe space for him to express his social anxieties. Plus, I was affable enough to get beer when I was underage – and I’m still proud of that (FYI – Dave never partook).

For some reason we clicked, and almost as if we had formed a pact, we battled the hardships of middle school and high school together. I had the privilege of growing up with Dave and experiencing a side of him that not many people had the opportunity to do.

My friendship with David really blossomed one particular winter. I forget the exact year but we were still in middle school, and the Hofers were kind enough to invite me to their house up in Maine for a week!

Dave of course was most excited about playing video games, particularly Halo and Dead or Alive 3 in our pajamas, and having tons of eggs, bacon, and steak in front of a fire. Then we would go out to the frozen lake and watch the sunset! It was always the most simple and highly caloric things in life he loved the most.

This was bound to be a good trip – it was my first time with another family for an extended period of time, and this good Jewish boy was about to spend Chanukah with his adopted German family in a town where “a Jew” sounds more like a sneeze than an acquaintance.

I’ll skip over the part of the story where I was stuck on a bus for 9 hours going to bumblef**k Maine next to some obese woman who brought 4 bags of McDonald’s as her carry on luggage, and I sat there as she slurped the salt and grease off her fingers after every bite… Did I mention it was a 9 hour bus ride?

Dave was so pumped! He got a BB gun, which totally freaked me out because, as David reminded me time and time again: I am a p***y. He was very excited about teaching me how to shoot. I was horrible – after a week I still couldn’t hit a can of coke from 10 feet away. Tellingly, he made a joke about my being a terrible partner if we were to be police officers together.

We cut down and decorated a Christmas tree. We watched the sunset on the lake. We rode snowmobiles – and I nearly killed myself. Helmut says that was the day his hair started to turn grey.

We also did as David had planned, and played tons of video games late into the night. He would kick my ass and call me all kinds of vile names – which I never thought I would miss, by the way, and I need not repeat them as it would ruin this wholesome story. It was all he dreamt our friendship would be. My version would’ve included more sports and some alcohol (this was before Dave discovered Fireball) but it was meaningful and beautiful nonetheless.

I had mentioned to Dave’s mom that I would be spending Chanukah with them. Sonja was kind enough to offer her help and make sure I had “that thing you Jews light on Chanukah” – a menorah. Finding a menorah in Maine proved challenging. At long last, we ended up making one out of clay. Sonja was almost more into this activity than I was. She is an artist after all, and I really only consider myself Jew-ish. It was actually Sonja, the atheist, who would yell out the window: “Jesse! Your prayers!” at sunset to remind me to light the candles each night and let me know which day it was. And each night my adopted German family would listen, and Dave would make fun of, my Hebrew prayers. It was a really beautiful and meaningful experience.

At some point during the trip, Helmut thought it would be awesome if he ran in 5 feet of snow around the outside of the house barefoot. And he did, and he looked super cool doing it. So cool, in fact, that Dave thought it would be a great idea to emulate his father… But only once no one was watching, of course. Now it’s 1am, everyone is fast asleep, I just got my ass kicked for the 1200th time in a video game, and it’s negative 20F outside. This was the moment Dave decided that this was the opportune time for him, his sister Meret, and myself to go for a stroll. And so we ran outside in our pajamas, just as barefoot as his father, and did a lap around the house… Only to find out that the door was locked behind us. It was FREEEEEEZZING! You could probably see Canada with binoculars, that’s how far north this is.

After much commotion and many, many snowballs to their parents’ window and not a peep from either of them, Meret decides to take matters into her own hands. Heroically, she scales the side of the house and knocks on the window. Their parents finally wake up and come down stairs. With a grunt, Sonja and Helmut let us back in the house as they muttered “idiots…”

— quick side note, I showed this story to the Hofers beforehand, and Sonja was very quick to point out that I had conveniently left out the part about my body overheating in the cold and throwing up in their sink when I got back inside. So there’s that. See Sonja, I owned it! 🙂

This isn’t exactly about Dave, but the Hofer family as a whole, and who they have been for me. Dave and his family gave me a safe space to grow up when I didn’t feel like my home with my father was that safe at all.

Thank you, Sonja and Helmut, for seeing that I needed the extra support and taking me on as one of your own. Thank you Meret for being an awesome big sister and allowing me to be a part of the relationship you had with your brother. And thank you Dave, for being a genuine and caring friend. We didn’t always get along, but I always knew you cared. Thank you for teaching me that lesson.”

~ Jesse B., Friend

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Dave and Jesse years later.

A Story: Welcome to Metropolitan Studies

I have been contemplating if I should submit a story or not for Dave, because I don’t have one remarkable story, but just a collection of fond memories. Dave and I were close friends during college and remained friends after we graduated NYU.  I regret that never really expressed to him how I considered him one of my best friends at that time, and how I spoke highly of him to everyone including my parents and my husband.  He was, and still is, a person that I reminisce about on a daily basis.

The first time I met Dave was during my first day in my new major at NYU, Metropolitan Studies.  I was nervous not knowing anyone since I just transferred into that major (I did not know many people at NYU in general since I transferred from a different college the year before).  I was so anxious that day and arrived to class very early.  Letting my nervousness get the best of me, I announced to the few students in the classroom that it was my first day as a Met Studies major.  Dave responded smiling, “Welcome to the major.  We’re glad to have you!”  Little did I know was that Dave was just playing it cool, and it was his first day in Met Studies too.  Dave and I started chatting and he quickly told me how he wanted to become a police officer.  I could tell he seemed a little hesitant about my reaction, but I told him that my entire family, including my father, was police officers.  After that he was excited to talk to me about his future plans.  During the week I came to realize that Dave was in all my Met Studies classes, and we eventually sat next to each other everyday for 2 years straight.”

~ Diana V., NYU classmate

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A Story: A Night In Texas

I severely missed Dave when he moved to Texas,  but when I visited him I couldn’t be more proud of him.  His apartment was great; he was talking of buying a house soon; him and Marta got engaged; he was telling me of how much he was respected; and all the great opportunities.  He then went on to start telling me over and over to move down there and do my work in Plano.  My favorite night in Texas was when David, Jesse, and myself were on his balcony with some cigars.  We talked about each others’ lives and what we saw for each other going forward.  That scene sitting and smoking cigars with him cracking jokes, and giving advice, is how I imagined how we would be when we grew old together.

David meant a lot to me.  Always someone I could reach out to hang out with, game with, or just talk to.  A friend asked me if there was someone who had my back unconditionally without judgement.  I quickly responded that I was pretty sure David had my back.  He had always been there for me and was like a big brother to me.”

~ Greg T., Friend

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A Tribute: From The Wife Of An Officer

The author of this letter preferred to remain anonymous due to her husband’s role in the PD. It’s a heart-wrenching and beautiful tribute. Thank you so much for sending it to me. Much love.

Dear David,

I did not have the honor of meeting you personally.  For that, I am saddened.  However, I have had the privilege of ‘knowing’ you through my husband, your co-worker.  I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for you.  I know, without a doubt, that you were an exceptional person, someone we all aspired to emulate.  I know this, not because of the extraordinary, heroic, and altruistic acts that I read on social media or heard about at your funeral, but because of the tangible transformation I see in my husband, because of your friendship. That is a testament to your character; an immeasurable gift that I will cherish forever.

“I needed Dave more than he needed me.  He was just ‘that kind of guy’.  He was authentic.”  Those are words not spoken by my husband about anyone else.  And, I mean no one else. No one. To hear my husband talk about your ‘larger than life’ personality, your passion for life and ‘living’, and your love for and devotion to Marta, your family and fellow officers, is to love you.

Your influence on so many people is incredible.  I am grateful, perhaps selfishly, for the life changing impact you had on my husband.  David, thank you for your wisdom, unconditional love, and selfless acts of kindness.  Thank you for your contagious laugh, your funny and often vulgar humor, and your acceptance.  Thank you for changing my husband.  Because of you, his life had new meaning. His love for others was renewed.  He was changed.  He IS changed. Forever. Because of you.

Helpless, I watch my husband cry and shake his head in disbelief that you’re gone.  He sees you in his dreams. He feels your presence in the warmth of the sun.   He still looks forward to talking to you at work.

You live on in so many ways, in the lives you’ve touched, and the hearts you’ve mended. 

David, know that you are loved beyond words.  More than life itself.  You. Are. Loved.

A Tribute: At the Dollar Store

“It was Saturday March 5th and I was heading to Bedford to attend the Service for Officer Hofer. I looked for a store close by to purchase some stuff to make a poster for my nephew to display… I stopped at Family Dollar on Texas 10. I got all the stuff I needed and headed to the register to pay, the man at the register making small talk with my nephew said “it’s poster time” to which I replied: “Yes, we are heading to Pennington field for the service for officer Hofer.” He said: “Oh! That’s just heartbreaking.” I said: “Yes it’s very unfortunate so we want to do anything possible to show support.” The man said: “he used to come in around Christmas time to check on us, we’d been robbed before and he just wanted to check on us.”

I didn’t really know what to say. I got a little bit choked up because although I never met David, it’s those little things that people will remember him by. The good he did around the community, that’s what any good officer strives to do. I’ve read the other stories and it’s almost like all of us who didn’t get to meet him while on patrol are doing so through these stories. Now this is not a personal story but I thought I’d share given that I’m sure it is one of many similar selfless things David did just because that’s who he was, a great police officer. Rest in Peace Ofc Hofer.

“Heroes live forever.”

~ Melissa M.,

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