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'You are forever our protector': West Valley police officer remembered as hometown hero

WEST VALLEY CITY — Dedicated, compassionate, honest, loyal and sometimes even goofy.

Those were the words many of Cody Brotherson's friends and family used when remembering their fallen loved one.

Law enforcers from across Utah and the nation gathered at the Maverik Center on Monday to pay their final respects to one of their own.

The 25-year-old West Valley police officer was killed in the line of duty on Nov. 6 while attempting to help other officers stop a fleeing vehicle. Brotherson's death marked the first officer killed in the line of duty in the history of the West Valley City Police Department.

To West Valley, Brotherson was a true hometown hero. A boy who grew up in the city and always wanted to protect and serve the people of his community. The man, who still had a boyish face, didn't want to be just any police officer but a member of the West Valley City Police Department.

"When Cody put on his uniform, he had pride in it," said former West Valley police officer Joseph Fedak, one of Brotherson's closest friends. "He was an officer in the city that he loved, the city he grew up in, and I believe that's where the pride came from."

Brotherson's mother, Jenny, noted that "his entire life he wanted to be a police officer. Mom tried to talk him out of it several times, but he never listened."

Cody Brotherson loved his family, and his family was comforted knowing that he was out there watching over them every night, his mother said.

"Before he was a police officer, he was our son. He was fiercely protective of his brothers, Braydon and Alex. He promised them from heaven to hell he would follow them. Cody was loyal to his core," she said.

Before he started every shift, Cody Brotherson would stop by his mother's house. When it was time to leave, he always said, "I love you, Mom."

His mother would reply, "I love you, too. Be safe."

And Cody Brotherson would always reply, "I got this," as he walked out the door.

Jenny Brotherson became emotional Monday as she recounted the nightly exchange.

"You are forever our protector," she said. "We will never allow you to be forgotten."

Cody Brotherson's younger brother, Braydon, told those gathered for the funeral services that while Cody was always there for his family, he also had one ear on his police radio, ready to run out the door and protect others who also needed him.

Braydon Brotherson called his older brother his "hero" and "role model."

"Thank you for bringing our family the respect and honor our family has," he said. "All the best qualities I have are the ones you have gifted me."

Braydon Brotherson thanked the West Valley City Police Department and the community for the way they have rallied together over the past week to support his family.

"Never in my life have I ever felt more pride and privilege than right now," he said.

At Monday's funeral services, West Vally Police Chief Lee Russo presented Braydon and Alex Brotherson with Cody's Medal of Honor, given to officers killed in the line of duty.

"He did what he set out to do. He helped others. He protected the community he was born and raised in," Russo said.

West Valley Deputy Chief Steve Sandquist called Brotherson's death "by far one of the most difficult times in the history of this police department."

An emotional Sandquist, occasionally wiping away tears with a tissue in hand, used a common law enforcement and military analogy to describe Brotherson as a sheep dog protecting the sheep — the community — from wolves.

Jessica Le, Cody Brotherson's fiancee, remembered him as an "incredible man." They met a couple of years ago, but in that short time together, "Baby, we had a really good life," she said at the funeral, partially addressing the congregation and in part speaking directly to Cody.

"From day one, he treated me like a princess," she said.

Le recalled Brotherson's "genuine smile," and though she couldn't describe the way he looked at her, she can always picture it.

"My heart is absolutely shattered not having him here with me," she said.

The couple had adopted a dog together and recently bought a house in South Weber.

In addition to being loyal, several people at Monday's services recalled Brotherson's "goofy" sense of humor. Le recalled the time he pulled her over for not signalling during a lane change and actually ran her license and registration through the police records computer.

In recent weeks, Brotherson had grown a mustache and named it Wilson, after the volleyball in the movie "Cast Away."

Chris Freestone, his good friend and fellow West Valley police officer who worked graveyard shifts with him, grew an accompanying mustache that he named Bilson.

"We drank one too many, laughed until we cried, drove our Harleys hundreds of miles," Freestone said, recalling his good times with Brotherson.

Monday's funeral also included a soaring version of "Amazing Grace" performed by West Valley police officer Breianna Wolfgramm.

Officers from across the state gave Brotherson the traditional long motorcade procession to Valley View Memorial Park for the interment and dedication of his grave, streaming by the hundreds into the quiet corner of the cemetery.

A contingent of officers waiting at attention lined the path to Brotherson's grave, where a 21-gun salute sounded and a group of helicopters flew in the missing man formation overhead.

In a dedicatory prayer over the site, family friend Justin Turcsanski asked that God watch over Brotherson's final resting place just as the officer had protected his community. He also prayed that Brotherson's family and fiancee will find comfort there through the years as they come to remember him.

"We ask thee to bless the family and the community that we might one day understand why things had to happen as they did," Turcsanski prayed, asking that greater respect and appreciation be shown toward police officers.

The last radio call to Brotherson was played for those at the cemetery, with the dispatcher on the other end becoming emotional as she described the qualities that made Brotherson an exemplary officer.

"Cody's personality, his passion for the job and his work ethic exemplified the traits that every officer should have," the dispatcher said, promising Brotherson that "your boys will take it from here."

Following the service, Russo said the depth of what his department has lost is only just beginning to sink in. A support network is in place for West Valley police officers who may be struggling following Brotherson's death.

Moving forward, Russo said the state must have serious conversations about what it will take to keep people from resisting and fleeing police, adding that he will be making calls to state legislators who have reached out to him.

Even as law enforcement has been under fire nationwide, recent deaths have shown the support that still exists for police, Russo said.

"People are paying attention. People are understanding the value of what police officers put on the line every day to protect their communities, and I think that silent majority is coming forward to speak about how much they believe in the police services, how much they believe in public safety, and I think that's going to start extinguishing that rhetoric we keep hearing about police abuses and (injustice)," Russo said, acknowledging that police misconduct has occurred in some cases and must be corrected.

Russo said he has been buoyed by the way law enforcement has rallied nationwide and the West Valley community has come forward to support the department and Brotherson’s family.

"It has warmed my heart. It has refreshed my soul about why I am a police officer," Russo said.

The Granite School District handed out 10,000 American flags to be waved along the procession route. Two large American flags were also displayed from West Valley City firetrucks along the route.

Unified Police Chief Jim Winder said his agency helped cover West Valley's area Monday so officers could attend the funeral.

"When these types of tragedies occur, there are no patches. There are no differences. The cars are not marked differently. We are representing our brothers and sisters in West Valley. That is healing. Because when we are at our greatest time of need, this community rallied to our support. But now we have the thankful opportunity to repay that," Winder said.

Draper Police Sgt. Derek Johnson was shot and killed in 2013. Draper Chief Bryan Roberts said services for Brotherson bring back a lot of the emotions he felt back then.

Roberts talked before the funeral began about what the West Valley police force is going through.

"It's so difficult," he said, "and unless you're walking in those shoes, you don't understand it. But it's a kick in the gut. And things just happen so quickly. … But it doesn't end here. It goes on. It will be part of the legacy and the history of the West Valley Police Department forever. And officer Brotherson will never be forgotten, not unlike the other 139 names that appear on the Law Enforcement Memorial Wall at the state Capitol."

Contributing: McKenzie Romero