Brothers Before Others Founder and President Michael Burke pondered over his drink, “Ya know. Once you tell someone, ‘I’ll never forget’, you have to remember that never means FOREVER.” The look on Michael’s face was one of determined exhaustion. As a charity founded on the goal of sending a floral arrangement to every line of duty death in the country, a task that we’ve flawlessly accomplished since 2014, it’s tragically hard to keep up with the heartbreak that this profession copes with. Today was no exception. On a day where our law enforcement family was coming to terms with the loss of Tuscaloosa Police Investigator Dornell Cousette, members of Brothers Before Others were hosting two separate and simultaneous gatherings, more than 500 miles apart, in honor of two heroes who had also been lost in the line of duty.
On September 12, 2016, while pursuing a carjacking suspect on foot, Detroit Police Sergeant Ken Steil was shot, eventually succumbing to his wounds 5 days later. On the 3 year anniversary of Sgt Steil’s passing, lead by retired Detroit Police Officer/BBO Board Member Daniel Emery, members of BBO gathered with the Steil family and officers from the Detroit PD 9th PCT to honor to, once again, honor the sacrifice.
In the presence of all who had gathered, which included Sgt Steil’s wife, JoAnn, his sister and parents, Daniel presented the Steil family and 9th PCT command staff with a portrait done Philadelphia Police Officer/Forensic Sketch Artist/BBO Partner Jonny Castro.
Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, BBO was also in Asbury Park, NJ, honoring Asbury Park Police Detective April Bird. In August of 2019, while investigating a shooting, Detective Bird collapsed at work after suffering a medical episode, eventually succumbing to her injuries. April was a beloved member of BBO and, as Michael Burke puts it, “..was a part of BBO before BBO was even BBO.” As such, joined by over 20 members, Michael gathered April’s family and coworkers in order to present them with memorial shirts, hats and challenge coins that had been created in her honor. The challenge coins were adorned with the portrait done by Jonny Castro; the same portrait that was humbly displayed at April’s funeral service.
Everything you could possibly need to know in regards to who April was to her friends, her family and this charity was eloquently summed up by her friend and BBO member Donna Gonzalez, who was also in attendance today.
As long as we maintain a free society, there will always be a criminal element. Likewise, there will always be brave men and women who put on a shield and stand between them and the rest of society. Sadly, this will continue to result in the tragic loss of police officers’ lives. Brothers Before Others will forever be here to remind the families, friends and coworkers that are left behind that ‘Never Forget’ is not just rhetoric. No one cares for police officers and their families quite like police officers and their families. Once you understand that concept, you immediately understand Brothers Before Others.