Police bid farewell to one of their own

Hundreds mourn officer killed in cruiser collision

May 27, 2006|By BRENT JONES | BRENT JONES,SUN REPORTER

The night before he was to speak at his friend's funeral, Officer Freddie Degraffinried sat down to scribble a few notes he felt would be appropriate for the occasion.

He wrote 10 pages.

Words came easily while remembering Baltimore police Officer Anthony A. Byrd, who was killed last week in a car crash and celebrated by family members, friends and fellow officers yesterday at Zion Baptist Church in East Baltimore.

Officer Degraffinried had to be cut short as he spoke during the near three-hour service. The two were cadets together, went to the police academy together, served in the Southwestern District together and were part of each others' weddings.

"Our peers called us the Dynamic Duo," he said. "Frick 'n Frack. M.C. Hammer and the 2 Bigg M.C.

"If tears could bring my friend back ... you would have about a million Tonys."

Officer Byrd, 31, died May 19 when his police cruiser collided with a police car driven by Officer Raymond E. Cook Jr. one block from the station. Officer Cook attended yesterday's service.

Several hundred officers from across Maryland and other states came to the church yesterday, filling North Caroline Street with a line of squad cars that stretched five blocks. Rain poured just before the funeral started, punctuating the sorrowful ceremony, a tribute to a man remembered as a leader of officers and of a family.

Those who spoke about Officer Byrd recalled a man who was devoted to family. Shantell Byrd, his wife, attested to that, talking about how her husband loved being at home with his family, especially his daughters, Toni, 11, and Kierra, 9. There were family barbecues at the Byrd house in Essex, and yearly vacations to Florida and the Cayman Islands, among other destinations.

There were his daughters' soccer games, swim meets and cheerleading competitions; Officer Byrd attended as often as he could.

He was a 1993 graduate of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, where he had played baseball.

"Even in my husband's short life, he lived life to the fullest," Mrs. Byrd said.

Known for his infectious smile, Officer Byrd liked to spend part of his free time in front of a television with a PlayStation controller in hand. Madden Football was his game of choice. He took on all comers.

"All he needed was his PlayStation," Mrs. Byrd said. "And he was pretty good."

Mayor Martin O'Malley, a representative from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s office and police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm also spoke at the service.

"Anthony Byrd knew his calling," Commissioner Hamm said. "He accepted it without hesitation. And our lives are better off because he did."

Officer Byrd's casket was draped in the American flag. Before it was taken to Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium, Malik Jenkins-Bey, a sergeant in the Eastern District, stood in the street keeping the road clear.

He did it as a way to honor the person he credits for getting him into law enforcement.

Sergeant Jenkins-Bey was working at a video store seven years ago when Byrd came in and talked up his life as an officer. Sergeant Jenkins-Bey said he didn't trust, or even like, the police. But he was impressed by Officer Byrd's professionalism.

"He took his job seriously," Sergeant Jenkins-Bey said. "You can tell by how he looked in his uniform and out. You couldn't imagine him doing anything wrong."

Sergeant Jenkins-Bey said he took an entrance exam a short time later.

"I'm a sergeant, a supervisor, but I still look up to him," he said. "A lot of the way I train my squad is based off that first squad I saw with Tony. He was one of the examples for me of what being a police officer is about."

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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