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West Valley mourns hometown hero killed in line of duty

WEST VALLEY CITY — When listening to Cody Brotherson talk with excitement about being a West Valley police officer and the chance to serve others, Chief Lee Russo said it reminded him a lot of himself when he was a rookie officer 32 years ago.

"I looked at this young man and said, 'He's got this great future ahead of him.' And (Sunday) I got a phone call. It was over," Russo said.

The police chief called it the "worst phone call I've ever had." Russo said he's had friends killed in the line of duty while he was an officer, but Brotherson's death marks the first officer killed in the line of duty in more than eight years of being chief in West Valley and Covington, Kentucky.

Brotherson is also the first West Valley police officer ever killed in the line of duty.

On Monday, the West Valley City Police Department and the community continued to mourn the loss of Brotherson, killed early Sunday while attempting to help other officers stop a fleeing vehicle.

Brotherson, 25, was outside of his patrol car, which was parked nearby with its red and blue emergency lights flashing, at the intersection of 4100 South and 2200 West when he was hit by three juveniles fleeing from pursuing officers.

All three suspects were arrested shortly after and booked into a juvenile detention center. Russo said he had received conflicting reports of the ages of the three boys, but all were between 14 and 17.

Police believe the juveniles had just stolen a car and were attempting to get away from pursuing officers. It was not known Monday whether they intentionally hit Brotherson.

"This is a situation where the investigation itself is rather complex because of the manner of death with a vehicle impact," Russo said.

Evidence such as skid marks and other measurements will be collected as part of the investigation, he said.

Russo also confirmed Monday that there is body-camera video of the fatal incident, but he had not yet seen the video and could not comment on it.

Investigators believe Brotherson was in the process of throwing a spike strip into the street in an attempt to puncture the fleeing the vehicle's tires. The spike strip kit had been removed from the trunk of his car, Russo said. Whether Brotherson was hit before or after he deployed the strip was unknown Monday.

While a multi-agency team lead by the Unified Police Department continued to investigate the tragic incident, Russo and West Valley police were concentrating Monday on paying respects to their fellow law enforcement brother and providing grief counseling for others in the department.

Russo said his department has received "amazing outreach and compassion" from the community. The support has brought the department "a level of comfort knowing how much the community cares," he said.

Some residents have been leaving notes of support and condolence or flowers on random West Valley patrol cars parked in their neighborhoods. Because of that, the department decided Monday to park Brotherson's patrol car at the Fairbourne Station Promenade just west of City Hall, 3600 S. Constitution Blvd.

The car will be a place for members of the community to mourn and pay their respects, Russo said. It will remain at the plaza until at least next Monday or as long as the community needs it, he said.

On Wednesday, rather than taking questions from residents about their concerns, Russo said he will use his monthly community meeting to hold a community vigil at Brotherson's patrol car starting at 7 p.m.

"We're going to suspend talking about crime in the city and crime prevention, and we're going to host a vigil right here with our community," he said. "We're going to ask our community to come out and share their grief with us, and show that expression and that unity that the community holds for the police department and our loss."

Brotherson's funeral is set for 10 a.m. next Monday at the Maverik Center, 3200 S. Decker Lake Drive, with a public viewing likely the day before, city officials said.

A memorial fundraiser "car/bike cruise" is scheduled for Saturday.

"Cody and his family are big into fast cars so we figured this was the best way we could honor and remember him," event organizers said.

The event will start at 2 p.m. at Valley Fair Mall, 3601 2700 West. All proceeds raised from the event will go to Brotherson's family.

"This is a very difficult situation for family and loved ones, but we as a community can reach out and make a positive influence in a time of grief and sorrow," event organizers posted on Facebook.

The West Valley City Police Department continued to be surrounded by American flags and blue ribbons Monday. Likewise, Brotherson's home in South Weber and his parents' home in West Valley were decorated by residents to honor the fallen hometown hero.

Brotherson grew up in West Valley and graduated from Granger High School. He was one of Russo's first hires after becoming chief, joining the department in December 2013. He is survived by a fiancée, two younger brothers and his parents.

About a month ago, Russo said he and his wife were at Snowbird's Oktoberfest when they ran into Brotherson and his family. They sat and chatted for the next 40 minutes, mostly listening to Brotherson talk about achieving his dream of becoming a West Valley police officer.

"And his brothers just beamed over him and what he was telling us, and you could see how proud they all were," Russo said.

The chief said the way Brotherson was talking was like listening to himself when he first started.

Now, Russo said his department will get through the hard times by coming together and supporting each other.

"The quality and professionalism and dedication of the men and women of this police department, they've carried us through some of the most difficult challenges we've ever had," he said. "And this is another difficult challenge. And I can guarantee you that that professionalism, that dedication, that focus to serve will get us through this."

The 1033 Foundation, which has supported the families of Utah fallen officers in recent years, presented Brotherson's family a $25,000 check.

“It is never easy to walk into those doors and face these family members,” Tore Steen, the nonprofit's founder, said in a statement. “We hope that our contribution can provide some relief during this hardship. … Cody Brotherson died a hero, and now his family is left to mourn and face the devastating outcomes. Now is the time to rally around this wonderful family and honor this local hero."

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam