One year after the shooting death of two Bristol police officers, law enforcement in Connecticut is still feeling the impact.
Lt. Dustin DeMonte and Sgt. Alex Hamzy were killed last year while responding to a domestic disturbance call. Both were shot and killed in what police described as an ambush. A third officer was wounded.
“Police officers go to domestic violence incidents all the time,” said Cheshire Police Chief Neil Dryfe. “To to see these two officers lose their lives in the situation like that, brought it home, I think, to the to the men and women who go out there every day and respond to those calls.
“Within hours, there were police officers in Connecticut responding to other domestic violence incidents in their jurisdiction,” Dryfe said.
The threat of violence against police officers came to the forefront again in Bristol last week when a woman walked into the Bristol Police Department’s unoccupied lobby and began firing a gun.
The bullet resistant-glass stopped the gunfire and no one was seriously injured. But video shows Suzanne Laprise, 51, firing her gun at responding officers who tried to speak with her. Laprise is now charged with attempted murder and other crimes.
“This job can go from being, you know, quiet and serene, to difficult and dangerous in a split second,” Dryfe said. “And I think that [the Laprise incident] just continued to reinforce that in everybody’s minds.”
Dryfe is also the former President of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association. Since the deaths of DeMonte and Hamzy, he says he and Bristol Police Chief Brian Gould have been struck by the outpouring of support from the community.
It’s a support, Dryfe says, that goes beyond the proliferation of blue lights outside homes and businesses across the area.
“The community has been unbelievable in rising to support the men and women of the of the Bristol Police Department,” Dryfe said. “Certainly here in Cheshire, we don’t go three or four days without somebody dropping off food, or sending a letter or something to the police department here. I think if you listen to Chief Gould talk about the men and women of his organization in his community, it’s had a very, very, profound effect on him — on the men and women of the Bristol Police Department.”
This year, the Bristol Police Benevolent Association, the City of Bristol Mayor’s Office, and Bristol police established a fund to build a new monument adjacent to the city’s police department. It’s intended to memorialize DeMonte and Hamzy. Chief Dryfe says this will be an important gesture.
“Fellow Bristol police officers at one point were were required to give the ultimate sacrifice,” Dryfe said, “and it just keeps it right … at the forefront of everybody’s mind.”