Natatia Bledsoe is the public information officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department.
Chief Nye remembers Officer Todd Bahr EOW 6/6/2008
Four years ago today, June 6, 2008, I started my day just as I start every day. I went to McDonalds and ate hotcakes and had a Diet Coke for breakfast.
June 6, 2008 was the day of the Special Olympics Torch Run, and I ran it with Phil Rodenberg, City Attorney Kathleen Dooley, and officers Barry Taylor and Lloyd Holland. I remember being upset that so few people participated.
Four years ago today, I learned that one of our new officers, who had just graduated from the Police Academy, decided that law enforcement was not for him and wanted to resign from the department. While I respected his decision, I remember being disappointed that this new recruit would no longer be a member of our agency.
On June 6, 2008, I attended the retirement ceremony for Mr. Ed Evers, who retired after 30 years of leading the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy. I remember being anxious about the uncertainty that accompanies change.
None of those small worries or disappointments even came close to comparing to what came later that day.
Four years ago today, I received a phone call that was without doubt the most shattering single moment in my entire career in law enforcement. We all know and accept the risks that come with being a police officer, or a deputy, and we all have learned to face these risks every day.
But nothing can prepare a person for that moment when we learn of the death of a friend, a colleague, a brother in uniform, a squad mate.
Nothing can prepare a wife, a mother, a father for the loss of their loved one to such unexpected and seemingly senseless tragedy.
Four years ago today, we lost one of the finest people I’ve ever known. The death of Todd Bahr struck at the very core of this department, and was a painful reminder of the genuine danger that we all face when we choose to join the ranks of law enforcement. Todd was killed while he was trying to protect someone he had never even met, because his duty and his mission as a police officer was to protect and serve, all of us. That’s the kind of person Todd was, and I want us all to remember that.
But since that day in June, I have come to understand some larger lessons in Todd’s death.
Four years ago today, I believe was a defining moment for the Fredericksburg Police Department.
A defining moment is a point at which the essential nature or character of a person, group, or organization is revealed or identified. The death of our friend and fellow officer Todd Bahr clearly revealed the fundamental character of this agency and of this community.
On the night of June 6, 2008, every available officer and employee who could do so, returned to work to offer help, to offer their expertise, or to simply stand in support, shoulder to shoulder with others who were also shocked and grieving.
Four years ago today, our parking lot was full and overflowing with vehicles from the state police, from the Spotsylvania and Stafford Sheriff’s Offices, the Fire Department, the Fredericksburg Sheriff’s Office, the Park Service, and the University of Mary Washington Police. Our neighboring law enforcement agencies made it very clear that we were not alone that night, and in the days that followed.
We were not alone, and for that I remain very grateful.
TheFredericksburg community also revealed how much they care about us, and how much our loss had affected them. We received so many cards and letters, wreaths and flowers and other mementos, phone calls and emails. We received gifts of food and care packages from Girl Scout troops and retirement homes, from neighbors here on Cowan Boulevard and from school groups. We heard personal stories about Todd from different people who had been touched by his compassion and his humanity. We received donations from businesses and from individuals to assist with the aftermath of his death, and we appreciate so much all of those generous thoughts and gestures.
A day or so after Todd’s death, we were contacted by two kids who lived next-door to us here in one of the apartment complexes, and these boys wanted to leave a note on Todd’s car to tell him how much they missed him.
Apparently Todd was in the habit of talking with these boys and checking up on them when they walked from their apartment building over to shoot some basketball at Hugh Mercer Elementary in the afternoons. That seemingly small amount of attention and consideration made a big impression on these kids, and it reminds us that the loss of a person like Todd can have an enormous impact beyond that of our own individual perspective. Todd will forever be missed by his family, by his friends and colleagues at the Police Department, and by people like these kids whose lives he touched every day.
A lot has been said and a lot has been written about the circumstances surrounding Todd’s death. And because of who we are and what we do, it was very important for us to study and investigate fully the events that encompassed the tragic moment when Todd was shot and killed.
But it’s also very important to not let Todd’s death overshadow Todd’s life. It was Todd’s life that was unique, and extraordinary, and meaningful. It was the way Todd lived his life that guarantees that he will never be forgotten.
John F. Kennedy said: “The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy.”
I hope that we will take this day to remember and reflect upon the triumph that was the life of Todd Allen Bahr.
Chief David Nye is the head of the Fredericksburg Police Department.