To the Families of Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa

Today, I’m tired. I’m tired because as I’m mourning my brother who was assassinated in the line of duty on March 1st in Euless, Texas, I have to think about you. I think about the moment you received a knock on the door from uniformed men and women with somber faces. I think about how you walk up to the door thinking that this isn’t good. But, believing at the same time that it can’t really be bad either, because you love your officer. It just can’t be that bad. And, then it is.

It is, in fact, the worst.

I think about the moment you receive a phone call or a visit from a panicked loved one and you hear the words uttered that: “He was shot. He’s gone.” And all you can think is: “No, it can’t be. It’s not him. It can’t be him. I love him. He can’t be gone. He’s a good person. He can’t be gone.”

But, he is.

But, he can’t be.

But, he is.

He is.

I think about how you will rush to the hospital, or make your way to the funeral home. You will see the rest of your family and those closest to you, and you will sit in silence, confused, because this is all wrong. Then, something odd will happen or someone will say something funny and you smile or laugh, because this is all so unreal. And, you will think how can I possibly laugh right now. My husband is dead. Or, my dad is dead. Or, my brother is dead.

In the next moment, you will look around and wonder why you’re there, in that moment, in that situation. And you’ll remember that:

“He was killed.”

And you’ll think that it can’t be. He was a good person. This only happens to “other people.”

But, it happened. And, you’re really at the funeral home, making decisions about caskets and flowers.

I think about how your family in Blue will take your hand, squeeze your shoulder, bring you a plate of food that you don’t want to touch. They will glance in your direction, feeling helpless that they can’t do anything to ease your pain, except perhaps, get you to drink a cup of water and eat a bite of anything at all. You will feel ill. Your stomach will hurt. Your chest will feel so heavy. You will feel like you can’t breathe.

As you sit there, making decisions on music and viewings, you will think:

“How can a person bear this much pain.”

“How am I still breathing? How am I still walking?”

Some moments you will think: “I wish the world would just open up and take me away.”

I think about how you will go to sleep at night, exhausted, and when you wake up, for just a moment things will be ok, and then the knowledge of what has happened will wash over you and you will experience the deepest, darkest sadness you will ever know. And this will happen morning after morning, at least for a little while.

I’m no expert at grieving, but I’m a few months ahead of where you are. There is nothing that anyone will say or do that will feel right, because right now everything is just wrong. People will try to comfort you, tell you there is a reason for everything, tell you that an angel went home or that something good will come from all this.

Know that they mean well, but they can’t possibly understand what it means to have someone you love torn from you in the most violent way possible.

After Dave was killed I received a letter from a father, who lost his own son too soon. He wrote: “Time does not heal the pain.  The pain you feel at the loss will never diminish but every day you will get stronger in how you deal and cope with that pain.” This was the most helpful thing anyone has said to me.

These words will bring you little comfort in these horrible days ahead, but know that we are thinking of you. We understand. We’re here. You will, somehow, make it.

You have to make it, because your man in blue needs you too.

~ Meret H., sister of David S. Hofer, EOW 3/1/2016

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A Story: A NYC Coincidence

I’ve been having a very hard day today. I can feel what kind of day it will be when I first wake up. If my heart feels heavy (I wonder how that feeling even comes about), I will probably have a very, very sad day.

I woke up with my heart feeling heavy. An appointment I had got cancelled, so I kind of tried to bumble my way through my morning, heading to the coffee shop to do some reading. In the end, I just ended up sitting there, but I give myself points for effort. When I got home, I received a message from Bryan R. about something that JUST happened to him. He agreed to let me share with you all.

“How about this for a little coincidence: currently working in uniform and standing outside of a school.  Two teenage girls and their guardian approached me saying they are on a spiritual mission and are going around praying for people.  I asked where they are from. They answered Texas.  I asked if they heard of Euless, and they said they live in a town 30 minutes from there (I forgot which one specifically).  One teenager said we would like to pray with/for me because they saw me and thought of “the wonderful police officer who died a few months ago.”  One girl looked at my tattoo and asked to see it fully, and I raised my arm, and the other teen said, “Wait, that’s the name of the police officer?”  I gave a short summary of Dave’s adventure from here to Texas.  “We will pray for his family and police officers everywhere” were their parting words.”

Thank you, ladies. Your message has reached us.

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A Thought: On Openness

I signed up to receive notifications when someone comments on my post “My Brother Was Killed Because He Wore A Uniform” on one of the major law enforcement Facebook pages. I can honestly say that most feedback has been supportive and honors my brother and other police officers. Some feedback is especially meaningful. Then, occasionally, something like this appears:

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I know this is a person who doesn’t actually care about these issues in a deep way. I doubt they even read my post. For whatever reasons, they have made up their mind that all cops are power-hungry and racist [yes, those words have been used in response to my article] and decided that, for those reasons, the lives of people in Blue don’t matter. I will spare you some of the worst comments I’ve seen, but I think you can imagine what they might be.

I don’t care who you are or what your background is. Life ALWAYS matters. It’s painful to know that people are so blinded by their narrow views and hate, that they simply dismiss this fundamental mandate. Life matters. My brother’s life mattered. Even this hateful person’s life matters.

But, ultimately, these are not the people one can expect to reach with a message of betterment. I truly believe that people with these hateful views are a very tiny minority of our society.

What is a lot more common, however, is that many other people have narrowed their worldview so significantly, that they are only grabbing bits and pieces of information to form their perspective on what the police means. They are only grasping at the stories and details that support their already established views. They are only talking to other people who believe the same things that they do. And, unfortunately, this happens on all sides of the discussion: the community can have detrimental ways of thinking about law enforcement, and law enforcement can have detrimental ways of thinking about the communities they serve.

This is where the change needs to happen.

We need to challenge ourselves to look beyond what we think we know to integrate information and events that, maybe, are contrary to our beliefs.

We need to challenge ourselves to see the nuances of controversial issues, and in fact, to seek out information that represents the other side of the discussion.

We need to challenge ourselves to engage meaningfully and respectfully with the people who believe the opposite of what we do.

Ultimately, we need to be open to changing our minds.

A Thought: To Our Heroes

This post is long overdue, but know that we have thought of you every single day. These words are dedicated to Dave’s friends and fellow officers who were there with him on March 1st.

You were there. You did everything in your power to save him. You were shot at. Yet, you moved forward in the face of grave danger without consideration of your own safety. You prevented the loss of more lives. You were with him in his last moments. 

Barely a moment to grieve,  you’re already back out there again. In the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, you’re once again patrolling the streets, helping strangers, responding to more “shots fired” calls.

You are heroes. My family knows this.

You are in our hearts, always.

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A Story: Making It Through The Rookie Years

“I worked with Dave in the ninth precinct. Dave was a class act and a fun guy. He was always inviting everyone out for drinks after our shift was finished on the 4×12’s. I admit I declined the invitation often because parenting on a hangover is tough! Those rare occasions I did accept were filled with hysterical stories revolving around Dave and his antics at work and the bar!

One particular night I decide to “belly up” at the bar. It’s not crowded, most likely a week night. It’s only a few of us inside and after doing a shot with Dave he starts telling me he’s thinking about quitting the job, saying that it just sucks.

He’s still a rookie and I’m well beyond my rookie years by the time he’s telling me this. Being a rookie in the NYPD means dealing with a whole lot of nonsense: standing on long foot posts every day and getting all the crap assignments; getting handed all crap arrests that keep you on your feet all day at the hospital; all day on your feet at central booking. And, finally, signing out after 16hrs and then returning to work the next day or some cases in a few hours later and repeating same process. It can be discouraging. So, as I’m listening to Dave, I make a joke about it but he’s telling me he’s serious about quitting. Dave tells me he was a cadet and that they helped with college while he was a cadet and that he has his bachelor’s degree. So I’m trying to convince him to stay, and he’s adamant that it sucks! He’s quitting! I ask him:

‘ How old are you?’
‘ 23 ‘ he says
‘ You have a college degree? ‘
‘ yup ‘ he says
‘ Put your hand in your pocket what do you have? ‘ He’s smiling as he’s doing this.
‘ A couple of twenties ‘ he says
‘ Your friends? What are your friends doing with themselves? ‘
‘ Nothing ‘ he says

I said: Dave, you’re 23yrs old with a college degree, a cop with a  career in the NYPD. You have a twenty dollar bill on the bar with some extras in your pocket. How many of your friends that are doing nothing can say that?

He smiles and says: yes… lets do some shots! Your brother never quit. Your brother stayed a cop. I will always remember him smiling!

It’s hard to parlay all your thoughts into typing sentences. After hearing your father, yourself and Dave’s fiancé speak about him, I guess my point is that Dave chose a path of righteousness, that requires unselfishness, compassion, and bravery. It’s easy to forget about compassion and become selfish doing this job. Dave never lost sight of that. May Dave & God always be in your heart and blessings!

~ Chris P., NYPD

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A Thought: On Funerals

A few days ago, May 4th, 2016 to be exact, marked the one-year end of watch anniversary of NYPD officer Brian Moore who was violently killed while performing his duty of protecting and serving the people of New York City. We’re also about to head into Police Week, which honors the service and sacrifice of the about 140-160 officers that lose their life in the line of duty each year. Thinking about Moore’s death, and that of so many others, I couldn’t help but also remember the many, many times Dave put on his dress uniform, wrapped his shield in a mourning band, and took his place among the thousands of officers paying their respects to a fallen officer. Once he moved to Texas, Dave flew back and forth between NYC and Texas numerous times to honor his fallen brothers.

It’s devastating to know that this is the current reality of being a police officer in the United States. Attending funerals, wearing mourning bands and memorial shirts, and making donations to the families of the fallen are all part of the routine responsibilities that many police officers incorporate into their daily living. Just looking through Dave’s photos makes it plain how many officers have been taken too early, too violently.

And now, Dave is one of those fallen.

No matter who we are, no matter whether we grew up rich or poor, no matter the pigment of our skin, no matter our political leanings: We should all know that we have to do better.

For our communities.
For those brave men and women in blue who put everything on the line to keep us safe.
For our humanity.

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One funeral of too many.

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 Thought: On Doing Better

Yesterday, Dutch novelist and Huffington Post columnist Pia de Jong published her take on my recent blog post “My Brother Was Killed Because He Wore A Uniform.” Full disclosure, though Pia only knew Dave peripherally, she knows my parents through my dad’s work and has been touched by this tragedy for that reason. Pia’s piece marked the first time a more left-leaning outlet picked up my post (so please go comment & support the post!), and I well know this is because the author knows our family. At the same time, my piece has meanwhile been shared on various law enforcement Facebook pages (like Law Enforcement Today) and websites (like Police Daily), CBS DFW did an article on it, and the Star Telegram mentioned the post in a discussion of Dave’s killer.

Of course, the law enforcement community can easily relate to my post. It serves to humanize a man in a uniform at a time when media depictions of police officers are highly polarized. The LEO community cares because we all know that our husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and best friends are so much more than the blue they wear. Our loved ones’ job is not what defines them. Every single person in the law enforcement community can imagine and understand the fear and pain of losing their loved one. I imagine that many of the LEO readers see my post and contemplate the words they would write in tribute to their man or woman in blue, or perhaps, think about what would be written about them.

The question I’m grappling with is how the average person can be brought to see the humanity in officers. Unfortunately, the uniform is a symbol for a larger system that many people feel is problematic or even oppressive. And, you know what, support of our police does not mean that we can’t at the same time also acknowledge problematic officers or policies that inflict hardship and pain in some communities. It is not a contradiction to do so. It means we’re able to see the gray areas. It means that we have nuance.

Yet, there is a distinct separation between a problematic system and the individual officers that are sworn to uphold laws and perform the duty of protecting and serving their communities. The police officer is responsible for dealing with situations that most of the time, by definition, involve conflict, suffering and confrontation. Unless we have interacted with a police officer personally, and in a positive way, it’s difficult to look beyond the uniform to see the man or woman who is doing an important job that requires patience, bravery, and split-second decision-making.

How can we get to a place where, instead of yelling at each other from opposite sides, we face each other with tolerance, understanding and a true desire to find common ground?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Email them to the ForHofer email address, and I will post some responses anonymously.

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Dave’s NYPD graduation, before he could fill his uniform.