Officer's integrity, devotion recalled


Layee Jabateh stood in tears yesterday on the front porch of his Essex home and pointed to the thick green grass in front.

Among the many lessons the Liberian native said he learned from his friend and neighbor Anthony A. Byrd - the Baltimore police officer who was killed in an accident with a fellow officer yesterday morning - was how to care for his lawn.

"Tony has been like a brother to me," Jabateh said. "It shocks me. Tony has been so nice to me since the day I moved here."

Jabateh was among the many friends and neighbors who visited the Byrd residence and had glowing words about the officer. Relatives who visited the home declined to comment yesterday.

Byrd, 31, graduated from East Baltimore's Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in 1993 and briefly attended Morgan State University but did not complete a degree, police said. He joined the police department in April 1995.

Byrd was assigned to the Southwestern District. Early in his career, he worked at times as a field training officer, guiding new officers.

Byrd was assigned to the Central Records Division in 2002 and returned last year to the Southwestern District, police said. He was married and had two daughters, ages 9 and 7, police said.

About noon yesterday, two police cars sat outside Byrd's home in WaterView, a quiet section of Essex with single-family homes along tree-lined streets.

An officer, who said he worked with Byrd, stood near the front door. He greeted visitors but declined to comment.

Family friend Fern Holland, 38, came to the house with son Colin, 15, after learning of the accident. She said she had known Byrd, through his wife, for at least 10 years. She said he embodied honesty and integrity.

"I really can't believe it," Holland said. "He was one of Baltimore's finest, one of the finest persons you could ever be around."

She said he was devoted to his family and was a role model for her son.

Colin Holland said he and Byrd talked regularly about life and handling pressure situations.

"He meant a whole lot to me," he said. "He told me to be respectful to my wife if or when I have one and to my mother. I really will miss him."

Neighbor Charley Adams, 26, said Byrd always had a smile and kept a positive outlook on life.

"He was the perfect neighbor and a really good police officer," he said. "You hear about a lot of negative things about the police, but he was the kind of guy you really want a police officer to be."

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