HAMPTON — A Virginia State Police trooper who was fatally shot at Richmond’s Greyhound bus station was memorialized Tuesday as a gifted law enforcement officer with a knack for uplifting colleagues and connecting with people.
“He had an incredible personality,” state police Col. W. Steven Flaherty said at the funeral of Chad Phillip Dermyer. “People were drawn to him. He proved every day, on duty and off duty, that he was a true professional.”
Flaherty reflected on Dermyer’s career as a municipal and state police officer and described him as a star who impressed at each agency where he worked.
The 37-year-old Marine Corps veteran, who lived in Gloucester County, was recently assigned to counterterrorism and criminal interdiction with the state police. When Dermyer met with the selection committee for the unit, Flaherty told the estimated 3,500 who assembled inside Liberty Baptist Church, he “blew them away.”
“Chad was doing what he loved to do — protect and serve others,” Flaherty said. “He was a natural.”
Mourners, mostly law enforcement officers who came from across Virginia and at least two dozen other states, streamed into the sanctuary in the hours before the service to support Dermyer’s loved ones.
Many of the officers wore black mourning bands across their badges. Outside, bouquets draped Dermyer’s patrol car.
Cyndi Grace, his former partner at the Newport News Police Department with whom he shared the nickname “Gracemyer,” said Dermyer was calm and proactive in his police work.
Addressing Dermyer’s wife, Michelle, and two children, Phillip, 14, and Page, 11, Grace said Dermyer took pride in watching his son play soccer and in his daughter’s intelligence and beauty. Grace told Dermyer’s wife: “He was so proud to be the lucky man standing next to you.”
Grant Ethridge, Liberty Baptist’s senior pastor, relayed childhood stories about Dermyer, recalling him as a man who was called to police work and possessed a memorable smile and laugh.
Ethridge said Dermyer died from an act that was “literally evil,” and he told the trooper’s family that it’s OK to ask God why Dermyer was taken in such a fashion. But he said they should also ask God why he was so gracious to bless them with Dermyer and the happiness he brought them during his life.
“Everyone who knew him, loved him,” Ethridge said.
Dermyer was killed during a criminal interdiction training exercise at the bus station on North Boulevard about 2:40 p.m. Thursday. Police said Dermyer approached James Brown III, 34, of Aurora, Ill., and within moments the man pulled a semi-automatic pistol from his waistband and shot the trooper several times. Other troopers returned fire, fatally wounding Brown.
A motive for the shooting has not been established; police and court records documented a lengthy criminal record for Brown, who was carrying an additional 143 rounds of ammunition in one of his two bags.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe met privately with Dermyer’s family before the funeral, presenting the trooper’s wife with the Virginia flag and his father the U.S. flag that flew over the state Capitol the day Dermyer died.
Before the service, state troopers Ira Dallam and Kara Pegram, classmates of Dermyer in the state police academy, were asked by reporters what qualities they most remembered about Dermyer. They turned to each other, knowingly, before answering in near unison: “His smile.”
“Everything we did — hard stuff, fun stuff. (He was) just always positive, keeping everybody together,” Pegram said.
“Without the red cape and tights, I thought he was Superman,” Dallam added.
Dermyer worked four years at the Newport News Police Department before leaving for the police force in his native Jackson, Mich. He graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in 2014 and patrolled Hampton and Newport News for the state police before his most recent assignment.
About 12:20 p.m., 200 police motorcycles rumbled from the church parking lot, leading the funeral procession past homes and businesses where people stood outside to pay their respects — people of all ages, some holding American flags — ending with a private burial and 21-gun salute in Gloucester County.