CLINTON, Mo. — “He was my hero. He was my hero when I was five, and he’s my hero today.”
Just hours after the shooting death of Clinton, Mo. police officer Gary Michael, the fallen officer’s brother spoke out, not with words of anger or resentment, but of love, fond memories, and gratitude for the time he got to spend with the man he called his hero.
The manhunt is still underway for the suspect who shot and killed 37-year-old Gary Michael during a traffic stop Monday morning, but Michael’s brother, Chris, spent his time speaking to reporters not focusing on the shooter, but on the beloved family member now gone.
“He loved to serve and be with people. He had a lot of love for everybody. And that really showed in the way that he was a family member; he was a husband and a brother. He had a lot of love,” Chris said. “He loved people.”
Chris said Gary joined the military after high school, and was serving in the Army on Sept. 11. He said Gary took a few different paths after leaving the military, but always felt the call to serve. Gary had been with the Clinton Police Department for less than a year.
Although he knew the inherent dangers of police work, Chris thought a small town like Clinton would carry less of a risk.
“We thought small town, probably wouldn’t happen. Yeah sure, you always thought it could, but that was a sacrifice he was willing to make,” he said.
Chris expressed that the shooter just made a “bad decision,” and said at this time, he doesn’t feel anger, but only sadness.
“One man’s decision last night at an ill-fated time and my brother’s big heart just got in front of it,” he said. That man just made a very ill-timed, bad decision that my brother was in the wrong spot at,” he said, adding, “I’m not angry. I am sad. I am very sad.”
Chris said he still has hope that some good can come through the heartbreaking tragedy.
“We’re going to hope that something good comes out of this. And we were strong before and we’re strong today and our community’s going to be a little stronger.”
Chris expressed his belief that the goodness of the community will be a source of strength for him and others touched by this loss.
“It shows you that there’s a lot of good people in the world and that one man made a bad decision, and it’s bringing out a lot of good in others. It took my brother away but it took him to a better place and that’s alright. Our dad was there with open arms to receive him. We lost him a few years ago, suddenly but we had a lot of quality with my brother and even though there was a lot of tears today, there was some laughter because we got to remember him, and who is was and who he is cause he’s still that person and he just proved it,” he said.
Chris said his years of fond memories with his brother will also help him through the hard times.
“We had a lot of great memories on the boat, Truman Lake. We got pictures of me and him five-years-old, little guys, with Dad,” he said.
Chris said it will be all of those things — the memories, the support of the community, and the unbroken love they still have for Gary — that will get him and his family through this incredibly difficult time.
“We are very strong and we will move on. And tomorrow’s still gonna suck and the next day is probably gonna not be so great but one day it will be okay because we have so much love with him, had so much good times and we still have a great family because he was part of it.”