Officer receives a show of support

Family and friends gather at airport to join deputy who lost leg in accident


Family and fellow deputies shook Deputy Richard Brooks' hand and patted him on the shoulder, letting him know everything would be all right.

As he was loaded into an ambulance on a gurney, the burly 53-year-old flashed a thumbs-up to his friends to show them he agreed.

The contingent had turned out at Martin State Airport on Wednesday to meet Brooks upon his return from Florida, where he lost his lower left leg when a drunken driver struck his motorcycle last month.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Harford County section of The Sun on March 12 incorrectly described the type of aircraft that transported Harford Sheriff's Deputy Richard Brooks to Maryland from Florida, where he had been severely injured when he was struck by a drunken driver while riding a motorcycle. Brooks came back to Maryland in a twin-engine airplane.

Brooks, a retired state transportation officer who is assigned to the court security detail for the Harford County Sheriff's Office, was on vacation when the driver hit his motorcycle head-on, severing his leg at the knee. Brooks also injured his arm in the accident.

According to police in Daytona Beach, Fla., a van crossed the center line and struck a car head-on and then hit Brooks. The driver of the van was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol and was charged with felony drunken driving.

On Wednesday, Brooks' parents and siblings were joined by some of his fellow officers from the courthouse and Sheriff R. Thomas Golding as the private helicopter in which he was flown back touched down at the airport in Middle River.

"We are a close group," said Sgt. Paul Cole. "We're just thankful that he's alive."

Also among them was Ed Finchman, a county facilities employee who was traveling with Brooks and may have saved his life by using a belt from a passerby as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.

After being helped off the helicopter, Brooks was surrounded by friends and family. For a few moments, he fought back tears, adjusting his glasses and sniffling.

The helicopter ride was provided for free by county residents and car dealership owners Rob and Loretta Cook, who flew down to get him. Assistant state's attorney Scott Lewis, who works in the courthouse where Brooks is assigned, arranged for an ambulance for Brooks after soliciting parents at Harford Lutheran School, where his wife works.

After landing, Brooks was taken by the ambulance to a nursing home in Baltimore County, where he will undergo rehabilitation.

"The support has been outstanding," Brooks said. "I'm just excited to get back and get started on my therapy."

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