BY ANDREAS YILMA
NAUGATUCK — A borough-based embroidery company and a South Carolina fabric and textile manufacturer have partnered once more to provide some form of emotional support and remembrance to the families of the Bristol police officers killed in an ambush shooting last year.
Two Bristol police officers, Sgt. Dustin Demonte, 35, and Officer Alex Hamzy, 34, were shot dead in October after being drawn into an ambush by an emergency call about possible domestic violence at a residence.
Officer Alec Iurato, 26, was wounded in the shooting and taken to a hospital, where he underwent surgery for serious wounds.
One of the two suspects, both brothers, was shot and killed on the scene while the other suspect was shot and taken to a hospital for treatment. He is awaiting trial.
An anonymous donor who is an Air Force veteran, former locally based special agent and 9/11 first responder, started a blanket drive for the families of the Sandy Hook School shooting victims with the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, a nonpartisan, nonprofit professional association.
Weavetec Inc. of Blacksburg, S.C., wove American flag blankets before they were shipped to Team Image on Church Street in Naugatuck, where they were embroidered with the full names of Demonte and Hamzy and the quote, “True Heroes Live Forever in Our Hearts.”
Both companies previously collaborated to make similar blankets for the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook, Conn., and Uvalde, Texas, school shootings.
Along with the blankets, the former special agent had coins donated through the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association from Ranger Industries, a veteran-based company.
Two coins were expected to be given to each fallen officer’s family.
One coin is engraved saying “Honoring the Passing of,” and “For Service to a Grateful Nation.
The other coin is engraved saying “It Is Not How These Officers Died That Made Them Heroes. It’s How They Lived.”
A coin was also expected to be given to Iruato with an engraving that says “Heroes Walk Among Us,” along with an engraving of an image of a police officer and an eagle.
The armed forces veteran said last month that he expected to bring the flags and coins to Bristol Police Community Relations Lt. Robert Osborne on March 31.
Team Image owner Loren Vorrase said one of her customers walked in to her business wearing a “Bristol Strong” shirt as she was taking the blankets out of the packaging to start embroidering. Her customer stated that her husband was roommates with one of the slain officers at the police academy.
“You see how here in Naugatuck, it affects everyone, no matter where you are,” Vorrase said. “It doesn’t matter that this is from Bristol, Newtown, Uvalde.”
Vorrase said it’s important that police officers, firefighters and any first responders should always get the recognition that they deserve as they put their lives on the line everyday.
“We shall never forget them,” the former special agent said.
“I’m just happy that we can be a part of it. I’m not looking for anything. I’m not in need of any recognition,” Vorrase said. “I’m just happy that I can provide a service that can hopefully make somebody feel a little bit better under the circumstances. It’s an honor for me to do the blankets for them.”
Ranger Industries Sales Director Russ Wilson, who is a former FBI agent and previous 20-year law enforcement officer, said that when the armed forces veteran gave him a call and told him about the fallen Bristol police officers, he jumped at the chance to help.
“Anything I can do to give back to brothers and sisters in blue, I’m more than happy to do so,” Wilson said. “I think it’s very significant that a few individuals at their own time, own money, came together to honor the fallen in any way possible. It’s a very small way to give back to those who give so much to us.”
The anonymous 9/11 responder said he doesn’t want to have to continue to do this.
“It’s got to stop,” the former special agent said. “It’s just got to come to a screeching halt.”
“To a certain degree, it’s bringing light for people to see that people do band together, people do come together, bad circumstances, whatever it may be and there are people going through this out there so you look to the families,” Vorrase said. “You want to try to provide some kind of emotional support for them and I think that’s probably the most important thing here is just, we’ll remember, we won’t forget.”