Fellow officers, community members pay tribute to fallen Conn. officer killed in ambush By:


By Ted Glanzer
Hartford Courant

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BRISTOL, Conn. — Mark Kichar said he and Dustin DeMonte were a match made in heaven.

After rooming together at the Connecticut Police Academy for six months in 2012, they worked together at the Bristol Police Department for just over 10 years. DeMonte’s badge is No. 221, Kichar’s is No. 222.

“We built our bonds [at the academy],” said Kichar, a Bristol police officer.

“We were just really close. We were together for six months, and that’s pretty much all you know,” he said. “Especially coming from the same department, a lot of times you aren’t buddied up with someone from the same department. We knew we were together forever.”

DeMonte was a massive Yankees and Dolphins fan; Kichar backed the Red Sox and Patriots.

“So we would take shots back and forth all the time,” Kichar said. “Puns back and forth. How about those Patriots? Then when Tom Brady gets traded, how about Tom Brady? We connected on so many different levels from sports to profession.”

Indeed, they worked together; they traveled together with their families; they hung out together.

They were brothers.

DeMonte, a sergeant, and Officer Alex Hamzy were shot and killed, allegedly by Nicholas Brutcher, on Wednesday night in front of a Redstone Hill Road home. A third officer, Alec Iurato, was seriously wounded in the shooting but is expected to recover.

DeMonte, 35, is survived by his wife Laura, who is pregnant, and two young children.

“He was a family man,” Kichar said. “His wife and kids were his priority with everything.”

Kichar said DeMonte loved music and dancing.

And DeMonte was so trustworthy, Kichar entrusted him with keeping Kichar’s engagement ring safe during a Mediterranean-European cruise — with five other law enforcement couples — in 2017, when Kichar proposed to his now-wife Taylor.

‘I was too scared to hold it the entire trip,” Kichar said. “Knowing Dustin had it, it would be fine.”

DeMonte recorded the moment when Kichar got engaged to Taylor on top of a mountain in Italy.

“He recorded the whole thing,” Kichar said. “He was the first one to yell congratulations on our video. He was my right-hand man.”

And when Kichar spoke with Laura after Dustin was pronounced dead, the first thing she said, according to Kichar, was, “He killed my husband? … Does he know how many lives he just ruined? …

“She kept saying, ‘I don’t know how someone can do this to him. The guy doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.’ He’s never mean to anyone, whether it be at work or at home. He’s always the positive one. He was never mean, as ironic as that sounds. In law enforcement, sometimes you’ve got to switch your gears. He was always a very nice guy with everyone he dealt with.”

DeMonte’s family, Kichar, his fellow officers and the community are left to pick up the pieces after having been shattered through an act of senseless violence.

“It’s going to be difficult,” Kichar said. “It’s going to be very difficult. We took an oath together. If he was next to me right now, he would say, ‘I need you to keep going.’ I’ve been saying prayers. … I don’t think I’ve prayed this hard in the last couple of days than I have in my whole life.”

The tributes that have poured in on social media provide further evidence that DeMonte was a true community police officer and an all-around great person.

Bristol teachers from West Bristol and Greene-Hills schools, where DeMonte was a school resource officer, said on Facebook that students lovingly called him “Officer Banana.”

“Some students [say] that YOU have been the predominant male figure in their lives,” one commenter said. “You entered our GOAL room and our lives with a bright smile, crazy wit, and unassuming acceptance. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

“You joined us during the tough days and the greats. From basketball games to our novel reading, you were there, participating, being present, connecting. Always connecting. And I think that’s why this all hurts extra. Because of your genuine connections to everyone.”

Another woman posted that DeMonte would brighten her autistic son’s day by saying hello to him every day.

DeMonte spent time working with the Bristol Police Youth Cadets Program as an adviser while he was an officer until he was promoted to sergeant, according to two cadets.

“He taught us a lot of really good things, so we learned a whole lot from him,” current Youth Cadet Capt. Madison Santello said. “And he was always friendly to us.”

After leaving the program, DeMonte took time to stop to check in with his former cadets whenever possible, Santello said.

Former Youth Cadet Capt. Emma Lewis, 17, said that DeMonte was “strict but also had a fun side.” She described him as knowledgeable and said he helped her tremendously.

Morris Patton, in a telephone interview, said that pre-COVID-19 he organized an annual softball game between Bristol teachers and police officers.

DeMonte participated and played on Patton’s team every year.

“When I saw his picture [on television], I broke down because he was a great kid,” Patton said. “He was one of those officers who was not just a cop. He was a community police officer. He’s the school resource officer. All the kids know him. All the people know him. Everyone knows him.”

DeMonte and Officer Zachary Levine in 2018 were co-officers of the year, according to Bristol’s website, following their response to an incident in which both officers saved the life of a man who was unconscious and in cardiac arrest in a locked bathroom in his home. The officers received a lifesaving commendation for quick response and were honored by the Bristol Exchange Club in 2019.

And if the police who are derelict in their duties are called bad apples, Kichar said DeMonte and Hamzy are “the ripest from the tree.”

“I think God needed a sergeant upstairs and a No. 1 officer and he took the top two,” Kichar said.

Going forward, Kichar said he won’t take the next day for granted.

“You see it on TV and stuff, and when you watch movies, but you never really think about it until it hits home like this,” Kichar said.

“Tomorrow is never a promised thing. I know if he was here right now, what he’d want to say and do. It’s just tough. It’s very tough. Sometimes with this job, we get sucked in. Sometimes we don’t realize tomorrow is never really a promise. This shows other people, too, that we’re not just cops. We’re humans. Dustin was the definition of that. He was a father. He was a brother. He was a son. He was a loving husband.”

Reporter Mike Mavredakis contributed to this story.

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