BRISTOL, Conn. (WTNH) — Officers from across Connecticut have been offering their support and help to Bristol police after the department lost two of its own earlier this month.
“We need to be there for one another and it’s important the officers know they’re not alone,” said Sgt. Jeffrey Ward of the Southington Police Department.
On Oct. 12, first responders rushed to Redstone Hill Road, where Lt. Dustin DeMonte and Sgt. Alex Hamzy had been shot and killed, and Officer Alec Iurato injured.
Bristol officers’ healing process is now beginning, having to face the pain and trauma they experienced that night.
“Cops are really good at compartmentalizing,” Ward said. “It’s what we do. We go out to a call, we handle a call, and then we’re expected to go onto the next call and handle the next one without even processing what we just did.”
Ward was called to the scene that night. He leads his department’s STARS program, which stands for Start Talking About Rough Stuff. Through this work, he started coordinating support for these first responders.
“We’ve had over 140 peer trained officers throughout the state respond,” Ward said. “We’ve had over 35 agencies respond. We’ve had nine mental health clinicians, seven chaplains, a couple of dogs and even horses that have come out to assist us with multiple debriefings we’ve done for Bristol and other agencies as well.”
The team hopes to help in any way, letting these officers know they’re there for them.
“What they’re experiencing now is very normal and it’s a very normal response from the body and mind to a very abnormal situation or incident,” Ward said. “I tell people every time you talk about the incident, it’s going to life a weight off your shoulders. You’re actually splitting it in half and you’re giving someone that worry, but they’re not taking it on the same way you initially did.”
Ward said getting help early is critical as the weight of what happened will only get heavier. He also said their support stretches far beyond the immediate aftermath of this tragedy and their assistance will be available to whoever needs it — whenever they might need it.