Officer's family speaks on his death

Byrd's father says he stood for `integrity'

May 21, 2006|By JENNIFER MCMENAMIN | JENNIFER MCMENAMIN,SUN REPORTER

They filed somberly out of the Essex home where they have mourned, their privacy ensured by the police officers stationed at their door.

The parents, wife and other relatives of Baltimore Police Officer Anthony A. Byrd - who was killed early Friday when two cruisers collided near the Southwest District station - came to a patch of grass out front.

Waiting were more than a dozen Baltimore police officers who worked the midnight shift with the 11-year veteran and father of two young girls.

"As you might imagine, this is a very tragic time for our family," said Byrd's father, Michael Griffin. "This is very devastating, but we trust in God. ... Our focus is to get through this the best way we know how."

Byrd, the officer in charge of Friday's midnight shift, was on his way back to the station as another officer, Raymond E. Cook Jr., 36, was leaving to back up a colleague handling a domestic dispute call.

Their patrol cars collided about 2:40 a.m. near Stafford Street and Parksley Avenue and then slammed into a utility pole.

Byrd died at St. Agnes Hospital. Cook, a 10-year veteran, was treated at Maryland Shock Trauma Center and released.

Byrd's family decided not to talk publicly in the hours immediately after the crash and emerged briefly yesterday for Griffin to make a short statement and to answer some questions.

Griffin was flanked by his wife, Sharon, and his son's wife of five years, Shantel. Behind them stood uniformed officers and commanders, many of whom worked in the Southwestern District with Byrd and whose police badges were wrapped with black mourning bands.

Byrds' two daughters, 11-year-old Toni and 9-year-old Kierra, stayed away from the news conference outside the family's two-story stone house.

"Anthony was very dear to us," said Griffin, who added that the death of his son served to remind the public of the good in the Police Department amid negative headlines. "Anthony stood for integrity, honesty and service to the community."

Griffin thanked the department, his family's church, Zion Baptist, and the community for its support. He said that he and his relatives "give glory to God" for everything that happens, even in the face of tragedy.

"Anthony was not placed in the Baltimore City Police Department by himself," the father said. "God placed him there." Police said yesterday that the department's accident reconstruction division was continuing its investigation into the crash.

"We haven't heard anything official," Griffin said of the investigation. "We stand and wait for that. We make no presumptions."

He said that his son knew Cook, the other officer involved in the crash, but that his son's death was made no more difficult by the fact that the collision involved a fellow policeman.

"The accident itself is difficult," Griffin said. "We also pray for Officer Cook, for his recovery."

jennifer.mcmenamin @baltsun.com

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