Memorials Unveiled In Fairfax For Officers

Relatives, friends and colleagues of the officers view a flyover of aircraft during a service marking the one-year anniversary of the shootings.
Relatives, friends and colleagues of the officers view a flyover of aircraft during a service marking the one-year anniversary of the shootings. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)
By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 9, 2007

On an otherwise glorious afternoon, a solemn crowd stood quietly in the parking lot of a Fairfax County police station yesterday and listened as a police dispatcher sounded two long tones and ordered all radio traffic to cease. When a police bagpiper began playing the elegiac "Going Home," the tears flowed again.

To mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting deaths of Detective Vicky O. Armel and Officer Michael E. Garbarino outside the Sully District station, the officers' families and friends joined several hundred officers for the unveiling of monuments to the fallen. A private memorial also was held inside the station in the Chantilly area, where Armel and Garbarino worked, and was moved to the rear parking lot where both were fatally shot May 8, 2006.

During a moment of silence for the officers, Garbarino's widow, Suzanne Garbarino, laid her head on the shoulder of Officer Michael S. Brodie and gripped his arm tightly. Brodie was a friend of her husband's and was part of the department's peer support team that assisted the families and all officers after the shooting. When Officer Rob Deer started playing the bagpipes, Garbarino again appeared overcome and wiped away tears.

Armel's widower, Fairfax Officer Tyler Armel, stood steadily, accompanied by his children Thomas and Masen, ages 8 and 5. Garbarino's daughters, Katherine, 15, and Natalie, 11, stood with their mother. The families did not speak publicly.

In March, when the two officers were posthumously awarded a Gold Medal of Valor from the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, the Garbarinos issued a statement: "Mike was a Godly man, loving husband and father, and dedicated public servant. He truly made the ultimate sacrifice. For this we are so proud of him. We think of him every day and he is sorely missed."

Garbarino, 53, was sitting in his unmarked cruiser, signing off his computer and preparing to head home, when a mentally ill Centreville teenager, Michael W. Kennedy, drove into the parking lot and climbed out of a van. Standing about 15 feet from Garbarino, Kennedy fired at least 20 rounds at the unarmed officer from an AK-47-type rifle, hitting Garbarino five times. Garbarino called in the shooting and warned other officers not to enter the rear parking lot.

Armel, 40, who was on the other side of the lot, tried to draw fire away from Garbarino by shooting at Kennedy, police said. Kennedy moved toward her with his two rifles, five handguns and 300 rounds of ammunition and fatally shot her in the chest.

Two other officers who heard Garbarino's call for help, Mark P. Dale and Jeffrey W. Andrea, drove to the station and shot and killed Kennedy, 18.

Sully Officer Jack Tuller built two brick planters in the parking spots where Garbarino and Armel were shot. Large granite boulders were then placed in the boxes, surrounded by small plants and Japanese maple trees.

The boulders were engraved with the officers' words. Armel's memorial says, "Keep the faith," a reflection of her devotion to Christianity. Garbarino's memorial says, "Keep up the fight," words he uttered as he staggered into a helicopter for a trip to the hospital, where he died nine days later.

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