David C. Brinkerhoff's love affair with the State Police ended tragically Wednesday when the 29-year-old trooper was fatally shot while pursuing a suspect in the Catskill Mountains.
He leaves behind his wife, Barbara, and an infant daughter, who has Down syndrome.
Brinkerhoff comes from a police family.
His brother Daniel is an Erie County sheriff's road patrol deputy.
And his mother, Karen Howard, is considered by troopers one of their own. For years they ate in her Southtowns' restaurants.
"I remember her beaming with pride when he graduated from the State Police Academy. She said it was his life's ambition and the whole family was proud and supportive of his goals," said Timothy Clark, who ran a business in West Seneca's Southgate Plaza where Howard's restaurant was located.
"He wore the State Police uniform proudly," added Clark, who now serves as Buffalo Niagara film commissioner. "He took it very seriously and died a hero."
Brinkerhoff joins the ranks of other slain troopers also remembered as heroes. One of them was his former State Police Academy classmate, Joseph A. Longobardo, who was fatally shot by Ralph "Bucky" Phillips last summer in Chautauqua County.
Brinkerhoff and Longobardo not only entered the academy at the same time in 1998, but they later trained together to become part of the elite Mobile Response Team -- the State Police version of SWAT -- that spearheaded the five-month manhunt for Phillips.
Brinkerhoff, in fact, also participated in the search for Phillips.
At about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday, he and his partner, Trooper Richard Mattson, were both shot while searching a house for a man who allegedly shot another trooper Tuesday in the Town of Margaretville. Mattson was listed in serious but stable condition late Wedneday.
And like this latest tragedy, Phillips also shot and wounded two other troopers in addition to killing Longobardo.
Brinkerhoff's infant daughter was born the same day Phillips was caught -- Sept. 8, 2006.
The irony was not lost on the teams of police officers who fanned out across Buffalo Niagara to notify Brinkerhoff's relatives of his death.
Some of the relatives were then flown in a State Police airplane across upstate to a hospital where they could spend some private moments with the body of the fallen trooper.
"We had offered our helicopter, but with the weather conditions, the State Police's fixed-wing aircraft was used," said Erie County Undersheriff Richard T. Donovan.
"Our sympathies go out to them. They're a law enforcement family, and Dan [his brother] is a great deputy," Donovan said.
Along with flags flying at half-staff at state buildings, flags at Hamburg Central School District are being lowered in memory of Brinkerhoff, a Hamburg High School graduate.
The 1995 class yearbook reveals a teenager who loved the Buffalo Sabres and dreamed of going into law enforcement.
In a farewell handwritten note published in the yearbook, Brinkerhoff wrote: "It's off to bigger and better things. The real world. Thanks for the good times. . . . Go Sabres. Let's play some hockey. I will be in the FBI."
His love for his mother also was unmistakeable.
He ended his note stating ". . . Mom, the nest is empty, but I'll always come back, I U."
Brinkerhoff also had some trepidation about leaving high school. "Life out of school. I've never experienced it," he stated in another section of the yearbook.
Brinkerhoff's mother ran Karen's, a restaurant on Route 391, just down the road from the State Police station in Boston, where he was raised. At the restaurant, Karen Howard became good friends with troopers who were regular customers.
When she moved the business to Southgate Plaza, the troopers followed, and young Brinkerhoff often helped his mother at the restaurant, according to Clark.
When Howard served on the Hamburg Central School Board, she often spoke of her sons, David, Daniel and Michael, who went on to become a Lake Shore teacher.
"She always bragged about how well her children had done over the years in school . . . and we were very pleased at how successful her sons became," said Edwin J. Osborne, a member of the Hamburg School Board.
But late Wednesday, there was no getting around the shock to the local law enforcement community at the news that a trooper with ties to Western New York had been slain.
"Both of my sons are troopers and have the same first names as Daniel and David and they entered the State Police at about the same time as David," said Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard, a former trooper. "Just hearing three more troopers have been shot is devastating."
State Police Capts. Steven Nigrelli and Daniel Lyons, Buffalo Chief of Detectives Dennis Richards and Buffalo police chaplain Kenyatta Cobb showed up at the North Buffalo doorstep of Roy Brinkerhoff to announce the tragic news of his son's death.
"We were there as a show of support, to represent the City of Buffalo and the law enforcement community in general," said Richards. "Our hearts go out to the family."
Buffalo Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson said he was stunned by the news of a fellow law enforcement officer being killed in the line of duty.
"When I heard it, I was very shocked and saddened," said Gipson. "To have three troopers shot in the last two days, it impacts the entire law enforcement community and we're deeply saddened."
Funeral plans for Brinkerhoff were incomplete late Wednesday.
News Staff Reporters Vanessa Thomas and Tom Precious contributed to this report.
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