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: About Commitment

“I knew David to be one of the most engaged people I knew.  He “whole-assed” everything he did.  When he played video games… he became good (never liked losing).  When he built computers he followed through with the best-researched top of the line parts.  When he worked out he lifted heavy and often.  When he went to college he went to NYU and graduated with a very good GPA.  When he decided to become a cop he did the auxiliary police force as a bicycle cop up until he had his driver’s license and then went to the academy.  When he said he wanted to go somewhere nicer he moved to Texas.  I was always a bit in awe and impressed by his forward momentum.  I can say, he was one of the only people in my life that I wanted to actually impress.”

~ Greg T., Friend

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Dave as an auxiliary in the 6th precinct (NYPD)

A Tribute: About Yankees & Hillbillies

I received this note from a Euless community member who met David through his work on multiple occasions. Thank you for sharing.

“I worked with David so many times that we started to know each other on a more personal level outside of work. I was a wrecker driver at B&B Wrecker Service. I didn’t know a lot of the officers by name – just by their faces. But, he knew me by name.
Not long before his passing he was called out to my mom’s house because some new people moved in next to them and they have a really big dog that never stopped barking. My mom told him I worked for B&B and he knew exactly who I was. She playfully asked if she could shoot the dang thing with a BB gun lol! He joked what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

When we would work a scene together it was always the same greeting. I would say: “What’s up, Yankee.” His response was: “Not much, hillbilly.” One day, I finally asked him what brought him to Texas. His response was that he wanted to live longer, that the streets of New York are pretty dangerous. He also mentioned some other things, like that he wanted to start a family with his fiance. But, that’s the main thing that stuck in my head. When I heard there was a shooting a prayed it wasn’t him. Then I got the word and my heart just sank.

I pray for all the men and women that risk their lives everyday to make this world a safer place for us to live. God bless you all and thank you for all the sacrifices that you make.

Officer Dave Hofer, it was an absolute pleasure and honor getting to meet you. And, I thank all the other cities that came together to make his memorial service possible.

~ Daniel R., Resident

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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A Story: Firsts

“I grew up in a household with my mom, my sister, and my grandmother.  I hadn’t had much male influence in my life.  And, I had so many first experiences with David.  When he took me to his family’s house in Maine, I drove a vehicle for the first time.  It was a snowmobile and I was very excited to ride it.  I smoked a cigar for the first time.  Back in the city, I tried dip for the first time with him (it floored me!).  And in Texas, he took me and our friend Jesse to a gun range, where I fired a gun for the first time.

David always wanted to share the experiences he had in his life with me.  He always called me to join him in whatever he was doing.  When I was in college, he asked me to be an auxiliary with him and when he became a NYPD cop he asked me to join the police with him.  I said “No”, but he asked so many times and told me of all the confidence he had gotten, all the brotherhood, all the experiences good and bad, the feeling of making a difference, and that he could make it so we could work together, that I eventually took the police test.  Honestly, the biggest thing that got me to take the test was the idea that I could work along side him… it sounded pretty fun.”

~ Greg T., Friend

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Greg, Dave and Pam

A Tribute: At The Car Wash

A Letter from a Euless resident:

Last year while at a car wash, at the beginning of spring, it was a beautiful day, so everyone was waiting outside for their cars. A police officer came out, he acknowledges me. I asked him what city he served in, he answered that it was Euless. I said, “Oh, I live in Euless, thank you for your service.” We had a brief conversation, and while talking to him I felt a sense of a warm, caring, respectful young man. I now know that young man was Officer David Hofer. I feel honored to have met him. My deepest condolences to all of you, and you are in my prayers.

Carol A., Euless Resident