Chuck Gallagher: John Paprcka is an active member of Washington D.C.’s Metropolitan Police. These are his thoughts, they were placed on this site with his permission in February of 2012. These are one man’s reflections on friends and co-workers who have passed during his time behind the badge.(327) We all have stories, speaking/writing about them always helps, these are his thoughts and feelings. Please feel free to send me your thoughts, I am happy to add them. Not every loss has to be under fire...
I am not sure why I am posting this, but I think there are other MPD folks out there that may feel the same. I started writing this almost a year ago. This is inspired by Brian Gibson's death. 15 years ago he was taken, I am glad I was not there, but it doesn't take the pain away.
This is considered my breakfast club, but in the end, they are my friends and coworkers, however, they are deceased due to line of duty deaths, DUI accidents or suicide. Sadly 6 cops kill themselves to every cop killed in the line of duty. FACT!. Few will read all of the words and I wonder how many read all the words and can relate to any of the feelings.
I knew this guy for maybe one or two months. He was a midnight officer and was adjusting slowly to being a cop. It wasn't that he stood out, he just didn't seem to fit in. One day in roll call, the Sergeant announced that he had committed suicide with his private pistol. Almost all of us shrugged it off since no one knew him well and couldn't understand why you would kill yourself.
Chris and I were in the same academy class and sat next to each other due to alphabetic placement. We spent 4 months at the academy sharing studies and PT. Oddly, we were issued our weapons midway through the academy and the first weekend Chris had his gun he killed a person trying to rob him while off duty. Upon graduation, we were both assigned to the 4th district. I was assigned to midnights and he worked rotating days and evenings. Fourteen members of my class were assigned to the 4th district and we shared that common bond. The district had approximately 400 officers assigned to it and being rookies there, we always sought each other out to say hello and share stories. I wouldn't consider Chris one of the working officers or one that I'd see in court frequently, I did consider him a friend from class. As time passed, I developed a strong bond and new friendships with the guys I worked with on a nightly basis. Then, just a few years (I think two) I heard Chris was killed at Haines Point while driving someone else's motorcycle. Details of the accident were sketchy and I did not seek them out, nor did I attend his funeral. I do not recall why I didn't, perhaps it conflicted with Court or possibly my vacation time.
Years later, I was assigned to the Second District and began working with an older Detective named James "Bo" Bovino. I believe it was 2007 or 2008 Bo and I were driving through Haines Point and I made a comment I had a classmate who died in a bike accident. Bo told me he was there and that the scene was tough, he also pointed out that Chris had passed right away..
JAMES M. MCGEE JR.
Like Chris, Jim and I were in the same class and we also sat near each other due to out alphabetical names. I believe my relationship with Jim was stronger, partly since he and I were workout partners during PT and we often joked behind the instructors back. Jim was a tough guy and although I was smaller, he truly pushed me to knock out those extra sit ups, yeah, he held my feet. When it came to running, well, I was better at that than he. Regardless, Jim was a lot of fun and we enjoyed our 4 months together.
Upon graduation, he went to either the 6th or 7th District and our only real encounters after that were in court. Court was a place you could tell who the working cops were, as if you were not in court, you were not making lock ups. The cops that went to my district and worked steady midnights like myself had the fortune to be trained by a lot of hard working 17-20 year vets. Knowing what I know now, it is hard to find guys still making a lot of lock ups in there last few years. In any case, this was 1990 and DC was the murder capital of the US with an average body count of 500 per year. That said, the majority of our arrests were drug related or gun cases. This generally put me a hard working cop in court three to five times a week. So, with that said, I frequently saw Jim.
I believe I first learned of Jim death through a pager. In any case I was told he was off duty and coming out of a carry out with food. His two small children ages around 6 and 8 were seated in his car. Jim came out of the store, observed a robbery of a cab and drew his weapon and held the thug at bay. Unbeknownst to Jim and marked car pulled into the block, saw Jim with a gun and drew down on him. Until this day I am unsure of what exactly happened, but Jim turned with his gun and was shot. Jim fell to the ground and died. Jim was black and the uniformed cop was white. This in and of itself started a fire bed for some time, but in the end it did not bring back Jim.
Approximately 4 months ago I was working in the 6th District and a bunch of us were telling old war stories when Jim's came up. I was speaking with one of the first responding officers to that shooting. He told me he pulled up, ran up to the bad guy who had been shot and saw a badge. He then recognized the person as his friend, Jimmy McGee. Jim was still alive and he said he held him in his arms while he died. The most troubling thing is that he said he was holding Jim and within feet of him, were Jim's children. They were inside of a car and looking out as there dad took his last breath. Although I was not there, there picture is fused into my mind forever. This shooting took place in the mid nineties, I believe 1996.
This one is close to home and one of the hardest for me to get over. Partly because it could have been myself or anyone of the guys on my shift. It was February 1997. I had already made detective and was working days and evenings but had, and will forever have a strong bond with the officers I worked three years of midnights within the 4th District. We depended on each other and on more than one occasion literally backed the other up in grave life threatening situations that I am only now really trying to reflect on. I worked in Sector one and Brian in sector three. We attended the same roll call together for three years and as we all know, roll call alone is a place to bond. We also shared assignments together that we closed to the line and many times backed each other up on traffic stops and made arrests. Brian and I rode togetherseveral times with nothing remarkable happening (that I recall).
One of the better things I recall about Brian is when he got his take home car. Seldom do DC officers get take homes and this was a new program for those that resided in DC. You can only imagine how well Brian took care of his car, down to the damm armor all on the tires. I only mention this due to an police shooting that took place on a quiet Sunday morning. Basically, on duty Anthony Paci was at a Roy Roger's Drive-thru when a guy walked out of the store and cut through an alley. Paci thought something was up and got out on foot and rounded the alley and immediately came under fire. He returned fire and the robber fled in a Pathfinder. A broadcast was flashed and a chase was on. Within minutes the suspect vehicle was observed, chased and ultimately stopped by Brian and his cruiser. The suspect was arrested and went to US District court and convicted as a three time felon. Had Brian not used his car to stop the fleeing vehicle, it would have been gone.
All those fond memories ended during the midnight shift on an early night in February of either 1996 or 1997. I just can't recall the dates but I was home and saw this reported on the news. A man named Michael Dean was thrown out of a local night club named the IBEX. This club was notorious for shootings both inside and out. I once handled a case where 7 people were shot there in one incident. Due to all of the violence, the club hired off duty officers to work in uniform at the door and inside. On this night, officers ejected an overly intoxicated male whose name I recall as Michael Dean. Dean was apparently pissed at the police and walked across the street and got a 45 caliber pistol and was set to get revenge on the cops. Unfortunately, Brian Gibson was working his regular shift and was headed back toward the station located one block away. While stopped at a traffic light, Dean approached the driver's side of the marked cruiser and fired four rounds all of which struck Brian in the side of his body and head. Dean was quickly arrested on the scene, but the horror did not stop there. Rod Burke, an extremely close friend was near by and attempted to give CPR. Other officers knew it was a lost cause but everyone tried to help, but Rod was giving mouth to mouth and was absolutely covered in blood.
My mourning for this was never really expressed. I attended his wake and gathering of friends, then his funeral and all the other get togethers we did as a group. Each year after that his mom held an open house to any and all DC officers that wanted to come. For reason unknown, I always wanted to go to her and offer my condolences, but I never could. I have met her from time to time, but never expressed my pain nor the pain she must have felt and still lives with to this day. It is Brian's name that hurts the most. I just don't know why, but his death was absolutely wrong.
GERALD RODERICK BURKE "ROD"
I hit the streets of DC in May of 1990. DC was in the midst of replacing over 2000 police officers due to all of the 20 year cops hired in and around 1970. I came out of the academy, received some good on the job training and were set loose. Although we were not fully trained and street wise, we got ourselves hooked up with a lot of senior officers who recognized the drive and "piss and vinegar" the young officers had. So there many times you would be certified on a Thursday night, then come to work on a Friday and all the senior officers would be on there day off. That said, there would now be a rookie fresh out of the academy and the only thing that made you senior was you had three or four months of street time and there was no one else to train him.
Well, this was Rod, he came to our midnight section and didn't immediately fit in to the "street cop" mode. Rod graduated from Catholic University in degree that I believe was a psychology background. Rod hit the streets and was a good worker but interacted with the hucks in a manner most cops would not. We quickly began to call him Father Burke due to his style. I have tons of great stories of my arrests with Rod as well as the many nights we drank together as a group after work, breakfast over the years at the FOP and countless court cases together as well as his attendance at my wedding and when he shot himself in the hand with a seized pistol. Rod was a funny guy and never had any military bearing in attire.
Rod made Sergeant and was transferred to the Third District which is the Adams Morgan area. He had a great reputation among his officers and was a worker. One day during the evening tour around 5PM, I was traveling crosstown and through the Third District. I was on my own assignment and when I saw multiple cars flying with lights and sirens I ignored it. Why, well, it is an everyday occurence and we all have our own caseloads. That said, I never switched my radio over to the third district channel. Had I done that, well, I would have heard Rods last words live, rather than played back over a loud speakers at St. Patrick’s church in DC.
Rod was off duty, in his own car and headed to a family members funeral in Long Island. He was near 11th and Girard Street NW and saw a car that raised his suspicion. He radioed the tag in and it came back stolen. His followed the vehicle and broadcasted the destination to other units until there was silence. Units responding to the last reported location found Rod involved in a minor accident and unconscious behind the wheel. He was transported to MEDSTAR and pronounced dead. I found out shortly after and sergeant died and with a few phone calls learned it was Rod. I called some other friends made the sad notifications. Days later an autopsy would show his aorta ruptured. It could have happened to anyone. Within days, we had one funeral in DC, then the next day took fourteen marked cars up to Suffolk County , New York so that he could be buried at home. Burying friends was getting real old, no mater what the circumstances.
Elliot was a skinny Spanish guy and although I only interacted with him at work as he was an officer and I responded to many of his scenes with advice or just to be on the scene. Like any scene or interaction with a group of cops, there is a lot of in your face humor and plain old joking around. Elliott was a nice guy and I wish, but then again am glad I didn't or don't know a lot about him. Elliot went on vacation and never came back from Florida. They found him floating in a raft with a single round to his head. It was ruled a homicide.
H-m-m-m-m, this is kind of tough to remember or absolutely confirm. Like others, I recall Mike joining in the early nineties. He worked daywork and rotated into evenings, but was not a midnight officer. There was a difference back then and although it did not mean you were less of a cop, just not exposed to as much as soon as the midnight guys. Doug Mull, fellow academy classmate coined that phrase and it is true. 2 years on days/evenings is equal to six months on mids. But this is Mike's moment and I am not trying to take away from it. Mike and I became workers/friends in the mid nineties, he worked in property and I was a detective. We did the daily coffee run to Bryan Brambeck's crime scene search office and shot the sugar every day. Mike was just a regular guy and I think he was from Pennsylvania, perhaps Pittsburg. In any case, he left the department around 1999 and word got back to me that he became a salesman and ended up committing suicide.
What I can say is that Mike did make lock ups when he was on the street and not only witnessed but experienced a lot of the death on the streets as well as knowing many cops who were dying. So I wish I had more to say, but this is the first time I have sat down to write about my breakfast club since last year.
Ah yes, the breakfast club, yes, Mike too joined us periodically at the FOP for a breakfast before court. Very odd, my career in law enforcement is coming down to breakfast at the FOP. Regardless, Mike was a good person and hope his family is well.
Harold was a Detective in my office and had been there prior to my promotion. He was a very soft spoken person. We worked together in the same office, but realistically, we didn't make cases together. He was a great hands on person for fixing things and building stuff so there was always plenty of conversation about projects.
Harold came down with cancer and the department was trying to take care of him by giving him limited duty and allowing him time to go through his treatments at the Washington Hospital Center. Ironically, Harold was getting treated the same day the WHC shooter entered the hospital and shot a guy near Harold. Fortunately , Harold wasn't involved as he was unarmed, but there is some bit of irony in that a shooting takes place w/i yards of an unarmed cop.
In any case, Harold ended up dying from cancer and I am sad that I never visited him while he was in Hospice. I have my own demons to deal with in that regard. Rest Harold, Rest.
Freaking Dan! I hear his name and want to come out fighting. Dan and I were classmates in the academy and the knucklehead beat me by two points in the marksmanship portion of the academy. Dan was Korean, he was our class president and was very adept at martial arts. He was so flexible when stretching and in incredible shape. He divorced his wife in Allentown with their two kids and worked in DC. He was a daywork guy and worked his way into what was then possibly considered the Korean Liaison unit. He later left MPD, worked his way back as a MArshall and was later killed in car accident.
Seems like a senseless death, but like so many other cops, driving drunk is seemingly OK. If you are not a cop, you will not understand that last sentence.
Wow, talk about an innocent child that probably should not have been a cop but had such a warm life. I think she was impressionable and subsequently lost her job after about 6 years. She was always fun to be around and worked vice with a bunch of guys and made cases and was not a slap. Sadly, several years ago I heard she was bludgeoned to death in a domestic. She was a beautiful woman that did not deserved to die in the manner that she did. We miss you Sola and will not forget the wild times at the 911 club.
I was in the US Attorney's Office and heard a gunman was in HQ. I ran to HQ, saw fellow officers coming out of the front doors of 300 and ran to aid them carrying an unknown person.
I grabbed the forward portion of the stretcher and looked down and was unaware of the condition of the person. Eagle landed between HQ and 500 and we loaded the person on board.
Surreal, I put him safely in the bird, the blades of the chopper were in slow motion, whooooop, whoooooop. So slow.
I reached and grabbed his wrist and felt a strong pulse and thought, GREAT. Then I saw a person atop of him, giving CPR.
Everything set in and I have walked with that image to this day.
Only later did I learn it was Hank Daly.. Never knew him, but now I do.
Damn , tall skinny Jimmy. Sadly I was never really close with him, but we were workers and made cases. We may not have been friends, but we were there for each other and like all cops, depended on the other, like I got your back. Jim was there for me when I needed him and expressed concern about important issues that were personal. About 2-3 years ago I heard he had cancer, he was working out of I.A.D. and typical of a 3,700 man department, you hear about something and move on. I saw him a little over a year ago, visibly sickened by his cancer and he was so positive and working. Then one day I just heard he died, but worked to his last day on this Earth.
All of the above are friends and we all worked together and had breakfast at the F.O.P. on one day or another. Rest until we meet again!
Well, I was there. Had a friend's brother-in-law die there. And saw lots of tiny body part bags come from there. What does anyone want to know? It was just a sad place.
So many may ask why I have written the above? Well, I have written it not only for myself as I feel better getting this crap off my back, but it is for all of the above people who have died before me. They all served and have all died. Once again, I will use another friend’s word’s, We do not get paid for what we do, we get paid for what we may have to do. Good night friends.