EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The grieving widows of two slain Connecticut police officers gave tearful tributes to their husbands Friday during a funeral attended by thousands of law enforcement officers from around the country.
Others who spoke at the service for Bristol officers Dustin DeMonte and Alex Hamzy pleaded for an end to hatred and suspicion against the police.
“To Alex and Dustin, you were both true heroes, amazing people and you will be missed beyond words by everyone,” said DeMonte’s wife, Laura, who is pregnant with their third child. “I am so sorry this happened to you. Two of the very best humans. So kind, positive and fun-loving.”
DeMonte, Hamzy and Officer Alec Iurato were shot Oct. 12 in what police believe was an ambush set up by a 911 call made by the shooter, Nicholas Brutcher. Iurato, who survived a gunshot wound to his leg, struggled to get behind a police cruiser and fired a single shot that killed Brutcher. Brutcher’s brother, Nathan, also was shot — possibly by his brother — and survived.
DeMonte was a sergeant with 10 years’ experience on the force, and Hamzy was an officer for eight years. The funeral included formal, posthumous promotions of DeMonte to lieutenant and Hamzy to sergeant.
Without the crutches he has been using because of his wound, Iurato carried a flag into the stadium during the ceremony. He did not speak at the service, but several people who did called him a hero. He received a standing ovation later during the funeral when Bristol’s police chief spoke of his bravery.
Hamzy’s wife, Katie, said there weren’t enough words for her to describe her love for husband and read a quote she said she came across when he first became a police officer.
“When I see his badge, it is not just a number,” Katie Hamzy said, reading from the quote and crying. “It signifies honor and it has my ultimate respect. His badge that I proudly stand behind lies upon his chest, close to his heart, because this call on his life as an officer takes heart.”
She added: “So while you may know my officer as a number, know he is far more than that. He is my hero, my protection, the love of my life and, of course, my heart. I love you Alex.”
Thousands of police officers, some from as far away as California, Colorado, Texas and Canada, were in the stands for the nearly three-hour ceremony at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, the University of Connecticut’s 40,000-seat stadium in East Hartford.
Parts of major highways in the Hartford and New Haven areas were shut down as processions that included dozens of police motorcycles escorted the two officers’ bodies from funeral homes to the stadium.
Officers carried the American-flag-draped caskets into the stadium, followed by the officers’ families and other Bristol officers and firefighters. Relatives of DeMonte and Hamzy were comforted and escorted to their seats by officers and others.
The flags on the caskets were folded and given to the widows at the end of the funeral. Officers then returned the caskets to the hearses as bagpipers played “Amazing Grace.”
Mourners had streamed into the stadium over several hours before the service began an hour late around noon.
Officers from other states said it was important to show support in large numbers after such a tragedy, especially to the fallen officers’ families and letting them know they’re not alone.
“We’re all family,” said Sgt. Greg Dube, of the New Hampshire State Police. “We definitely feel their pain. The best way we can show our respect is in strength in numbers.”
DeMonte, 35, and Hamzy, 34, who both worked in patrol, were described by family, friends and colleagues as respected officers who were dedicated to the Bristol community, who cared deeply for their families and who put others ahead of themselves.
DeMonte, who also was a school resource officer, volunteered to honor local officers killed in the line of duty and help the homeless. Hamzy enjoyed mentoring youths and was an adviser to the Bristol Youth Cadet Program.
Authorities have not disclosed a motive for the shooting. A preliminary report said Brutcher fired more than 80 rounds as he attacked the officers from behind. The state inspector general also said in the report that it was evident Iurato’s use of deadly force on Brutcher was justified.
Hamzy’s father-in-law, Jeffrey Scott, gave a fiery speech at the funeral condemning animosity toward police officers because of “the actions of a few” as well as the current political climate in the U.S.
“Why is there so much hate in this country?” he asked. “We went from having differences to blatantly hating one another. This has to stop. It has to stop. There is no need for blue to hate red, or red to hate blue, whites to hate Blacks or Blacks to hate whites. We are one, one, one country. … If we don’t stop, we are going to lose our country.”