Photos, videos: Thousands pay respects to slain Pa. police chief
Hundreds of officers packed inside the church while hundreds of others watched from overflow spaces
By Megan Guza and Megan Tomasic
BRACKENRIDGE, Pa. — The camaraderie of the job — a sense of responsibility, a solemn duty — drew thousands of law enforcement officers and other first responders from across the state and country on Wednesday to honor a small-town police chief slain in his own neighborhood last week.
Brackenridge police Chief Justin McIntire was killed in the line of duty Jan. 2, four years to the day after he was sworn in as chief of his hometown.
The officers filled the lawn at Mount Saint Peter Roman Catholic Church in nearby New Kensington and lined the street leading up to it as a horse-drawn hearse carried the chief the short walk from the Ross Walker Funeral Home. They stood silently at attention as the hearse and the chief’s family passed by.
It was not much of an ask to get such law enforcement response, said Pennsylvania State Trooper Rocco Gagliardi.
“We all have different uniforms on, different cars, but at the end of the day, it’s all one team,” he said. “When we lose one of our members, we’re all there for one another and for that fallen member.”
Earlier Wednesday, Chief McIntire’s final roll call was issued over police radios in the county.
“Allegheny County to Brackenridge 1501.”
Again: “Allegheny County to Brackenridge 1501.”
“Allegheny County to Brackenridge Chief McIntire.”
“Attention all units, Brackenridge Police Chief Justin C. McIntire, badge No. 1501, is now out of service. End of watch: Jan. 2, 2023. May he rest in peace and watch over us all. He will not be forgotten.
“Allegheny County, clear.”
Nearly every local police department from Aspinwall to Zelienople was represented at the processional, along with hundreds more officers from across the state and region. Some came from much farther away to honor the chief and his family: Chicago, Dallas, New York, and Suffolk County, on Long Island, N.Y.
Trooper Gagliardi said that support and dedication goes beyond the fallen officer.
“He has family, friends, all here today,” he said. “Walking by a mile-long procession of police officers, I think that hits home for them a little bit.”
Hundreds of the officers packed inside the church while hundreds of others watched from overflow spaces. Inside the church, vignettes written by his children, Alexis, Jordan, Justin Jr. and Brennin, were read during the service.
Alexis told of a backyard party with friends who all hid when a cop car pulled into the alley. She said a few minutes went by before she heard, “Alexis, your dad wants to see you.” She put down her drink and walked out.
“First thing he said is, ‘Where’s my drink?’” she wrote. “He told us to keep it down because someone called in a noise complaint. And the party continued.”
Justin Jr., or JJ, wrote of a hunting trip on which his dad told him that once he sat down, he couldn’t move or else deer wouldn’t approach. As he sat against a tree, he wrote, he felt himself falling but, remembering his father’s admonition, he stayed still.
“So I ended up just falling the whole way over on my side,” he wrote. “And Dad was like, ‘JJ, what are you doing?’ And I told him I was falling.”
His dad clarified the instruction: “You could at least move if you feel you’re falling over.”
Chief McIntire’s little brother, Brandon, called him a friend and fishing buddy. His sister, Tiffany, wrote that she would miss her big brother’s jokes and his teasing.
His mother shared a poem he’d written one Mother’s Day.
“When I remember childhood, you were always there / Teaching me and guiding me with tender love and care / How special did you treat me with values good and true / I’m so thankful, mom, that God gave me to you.”
In a message to her son, she wrote in part: “You loved this community, and your people loved you. You did your job well and wore your badge with pride. I prayed for your safe return home every day, then every mother’s nightmare happened.
“You laid down your life and gave the ultimate sacrifice for your family and community — very close to your childhood home,” she continued. “I’m so thankful that God chose me to be your mother.”
After the service, hundreds of police vehicles poured out of New Kensington and headed to Mt. Airy Cemetery, where Chief McIntire was buried in a private ceremony. The sound of sirens echoed through the Allegheny River Valley as, one after another, the vehicles joined the procession.
Residents turned out in the same force as the law enforcement community, lining Freeport Road as the procession passed by.
Some waved flags, while others stood silently, the solemness of the day settling over the area. Others paid their respects by placing their hands over their hearts; many firefighters saluted.
“He was a good man, he was our chief,” said Jeffrey Drane, of Brackenridge. “It’s a shame what happened to him. It’s just a tragedy.”
Mr. Drane, who held a flag with the message “We will never forget,” said support from the community had been unbelievable. Over the past week, a memorial sprouted outside the borough building, filled with flowers, teddy bears and crosses. A vigil last Thursday drew hundreds to Brackenridge Memorial Park, where community members shared their memories of Chief McIntire.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, never in my life,” Mr. Drane said. “The support is just phenomenal. It’s unbelievable.”
Community members spent much of the morning placing “We support our police” signs and U.S. flags along a grass median separating Freeport Road and Broadview Boulevard.
Morgan O’Dell and Hailie Holes stood outside the Platinum Ridge Center for Rehabilitation & Healing in Brackenridge, hanging a sign that said, “RIP Chief,” written in blue and black, colors often used to support police.
“It’s very sad seeing the residents down,” said Hailie Holes, an activities assistant at the facility. “We’re trying to be there for them and talking to them and everything like that. I think it will be really nice for them to be out here and show their support.”
Tim Negley, a Platinum Ridge resident, sat along the roadway, his wheelchair covered in flags.
Mr. Negley said the chief used to coach his nephews in baseball and basketball.
He described Chief McIntire as “Wonderful. The kids would screw up five, six, seven, 10 times -- he never once raised his voice. He’d get up, grab his bat, say, ‘Hold it here,’ ‘Hold it there’ until they got the right grip on it. Once they started hitting it he just backed off and let them go.”
Tiffany Smith, of Harrison, hung a Thin Blue Line flag from her home and wore a black and blue shirt. Ms. Smith, along with Chris Brown, of Arnold, planned to stand outside as the procession passed.
“Just showing my support for him and his family is a main priority, but also the community coming together and showing their respects for an officer that was very well known,” Ms. Smith said.
Mr. Brown, a firefighter, added: “First responders, fire, police, EMS, we all stick together. It’s very important as our family – because that’s what we are, a family – that we come out and show our support and our respect and our love and sympathy for the family. It’s what we do.”
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