'Thank you:' At candlelight vigil, community gathers to honor fallen Bristol police officers
Hundreds of people lined North Main Street in Bristol Friday evening in a show of support and love for Sgt. Dustin DeMonte and Officer Alex Hamzy, the two Bristol police officers recently killed in the line of duty. They were shot in an ambush during an emergency call. A third officer was injured in the gunfire.
Holding candles and signs, cries of “thank you” rang out as red and blue lights filled the dark sky during a procession carrying Hamzy's body to Terryville. Led by motorcycle police, Hamzy’s colleagues from the Central Region Emergency Response Team stood on side boards of the vehicle that escorted him to the front of his police station for the last time.
Police cars from all over the state of Connecticut followed, stretching into the distance.
Dave Reynolds said he brought his 7-year-old grandson, Jax Bonien, to the candlelight vigil “to show that the police are good people and to experience this outpouring of love for them."
That sentiment had been carried throughout the day as scores of people brought flowers, balloons and cards to a memorial at the police station.
“My son went to school with Alex," said Debra Strong, a longtime Bristol resident. "I am heartbroken about what happened.”
The visitors were dropping off flowers or stopping to say a prayer.
Liz Floyd, a mother of four, came to show her support. Her 8-year-old son had been talking about the news with friends and told her: “I think I want to draw them a picture.”
She was so taken with their thoughtfulness she brought the drawings to the station for the officers.
“They are just good people,” she said. "And so good with the children,” and offered her prayer for the officers from a corner of the memorial.
Jamie Perchiano’s Facebook post on Bristol Talks helped set the vigil into motion. He said DeMonte had supported him.
“He saved my life,” Perchiano said. “I was divorced, an alcoholic, got in some trouble with the law. He helped. He got to know my sons Devin and Aidan and his kind words of support and wisdom meant a lot to me and my family. When I heard it was him it hit me so hard. I wanted to give back.”
Authorities say the officers were drawn into an ambush by an emergency call about possible domestic violence. State police said the 911 call about a dispute at a home between two siblings appeared to have been “a deliberate act to lure law enforcement to the scene.”
Demonte and Hamzy were shot as they arrived at the home. Hamzy died at the scene; Demonte was pronounced dead at a hospital. Officer Alec Iurato underwent surgery for serious wounds, and has been released from the hospital.
Various events have been held in recent days to honor the officers and the Bristol department. At Yankees Stadium, a moment of silence was held Friday at the American League Division Series between the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Guardians.
At a separate vigil Thursday night at Bristol Eastern High School, Police Chief Brian Gould said the department will get through the tragedy as a family. He urged mourners to love and care for each other.
Demonte was a 10-year veteran of the Bristol Police Department and co-recipient of his department's 2019 Officer of the Year award. He had worked as a school resource officer.
At a press conference earlier in the week, Gould said Demonte, who earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Central Connecticut State University, was “very focused on his career and furthering his career and education.”
He and his wife were expecting their third child, Gould said.
Philip Demonte Jr. called his brother “an all-around good guy” with a great sense of humor.
“No one had anything bad to say” about him, his brother said. “Terrible loss, someone who died for no reason.”
Hamzy was an eight-year veteran of the department and had gotten many letters of commendation during his tenure on his hometown police force, the chief said. Like Demonte, Hamzy was an adviser to a police cadet program.
“The outpouring of love, support and prayers from so many is deeply appreciated,” Hamzy's family said in a statement.
Iurato joined the Bristol department in 2018 and has a bachelor’s degree in government, law and national security.
The Bristol Police Heroes Fund has been established through the Bristol Police Union at Thomaston Savings Bank, the police department said.
Nationwide, 54 officers have died by gunfire on the job so far this year, compared to 62 throughout 2021, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit organization that tracks U.S. police officer deaths. (This year’s overall number is far behind last year’s pace, largely due to declining deaths from COVID-19.)
Connecticut Public's Matt Dwyer and Jennifer Ahrens and the Associated Press contributed to this report.