NHS Grad Will Ride In Police Unity Tour To Honor Fallen Officer
New Haven Police Detective Andrew Faggio sustained head injuries during a car accident while en route to a stake-out in January 2003.
“When I got a knock on the door, I thought he was shot,” said his wife, Jennifer Faggio, a 1984 Newtown High School graduate. “He was after a bank robber,” Ms Faggio said.
Her husband was in a “minimally conscious,” coma-like state for 8½ years after the accident, she said. Detective Faggio, originally from Madison, succumbed to his injuries in January 2012.
At times, Ms Faggio said, “He would open his eyes, look around.” She “held out hope for a long time.” However, a series of infections caused her husband to become very sick, she said. “His organs shut down.”
She has since found support, most recently when reconnecting with another 1984 NHS graduate, Keith Mackenzie, a former Bethel police officer currently with the Western Connecticut State University police.
He has for several years participated in the annual Police Unity Tour, which carries the motto “We Ride For Those Who Died.” Officers ride bicycles in a tour that travels from New Jersey to Washington, DC. Each officer rides in honor of a fallen officer. This year, Mr Mackenzie will ride for Detective Faggio.
The Police Unity Tour in early May is part of National Police Week, with events running May 6-15 in Washington, DC. A week-long ceremony for police officers killed in the line of duty takes place at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The memorial in Washington, DC, at Judiciary Square, honors 21,183 US law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.
In a recent e-mail to The Newtown Bee Ms Faggio wrote, “This year, Officer Mackenzie is riding in honor of my late husband. I thought this would make a very heart-warming story and represents what our wonderful hometown is all about.”
Although Ms Faggio and Mr Mackenzie had known one another, it was only after Ms Faggio saw a Facebook post that it led her to ask Mr Mackenzie about the Police Unity Tour. Quickly, they decided that he would ride for Mr Faggio this year.
The Officers’ Brotherhood
“You can’t imagine how much he loved his job,” Ms Faggio said about her husband’s career. He was “so dedicated. Everybody loved him.”
Among the people who visited when Andrew Faggio was in the Intensive Care Unit were “some were people he arrested,” Ms Faggio said. “He had a fan base.”
Talking about his work, she said, “He always wanted to be a police officer.”
Mr Faggio’s family owned a New Haven pastry shop.
“Everyone thought he would work there, but he wanted nothing to do with cannolis,” she said.
Ms Faggio believes her late husband's desire to be a police officer stemmed from a childhood incident. He was with his brother when his brother “cut his lip open, and the police took him to the emergency room in the police car. He was impressed,” she said. “So, ever since then…”
He eventually became a detective in robbery and burglary, she said.
Although her husband and Mr Mackenzie never met, Ms Faggio mentioned the officers’ “brotherhood.” She commented, “You hear about the brotherhood, but when my husband had his accident, I got cards from all over the world… it turns a hard situation into something positive.”
Riding To Remember
Mr Mackenzie started participating in the Police Unity Tour in 2012. He usually rides in honor of Atchison, Kan., fallen officer David E. Enzbrenner. After making a “close connection” with the officer’s family, he said, Mr Mackenzie then traveled to Kansas to ride in a race in his honor.
“I rode his personal bike,” Mr Mackenzie said.
In 2013, Mr Mackenzie rode for Charles “Chuck” Sease on the tenth anniversary of his death. He had been with Bethel Police Department briefly, Mr Mackenzie said.
Like Ms Faggio, Mr Mackenzie also described the “brotherhood.” Although he did not initially know any police officers or have a family member on the force, he “just wanted to be a cop,” he said. He has since learned the statistics of fallen officers, estimating that an officer dies every 2½ day, he said.
“Unfortunately, you become just a name on a plaque,” he said. He rides to remember those who died.
“In my 26 years of law enforcement, riding in the Police Unity Tour has been the most rewarding part of my career. Keeping the memory of a fallen brother/sister officer alive is very important to me,” he said.
An officer with three children and a wife “not knowing if I am coming home at night,” Mr Mackenzie said the statistics average that officers die on duty in their 30s or 40s with an average of two children.
The website policeweek.org includes a history, schedule of events, a roll call of heroes, and more. The home page states, “In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week. Currently, tens of thousands of law enforcement officers from around the world converge on Washington, DC, to participate in a number of planned events which honor those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“The Memorial Service began in 1982 as a gathering in Senate Park of approximately 120 survivors and supporters of law enforcement. Decades later, the event, more commonly known as National Police Week, has grown to a series of events which attracts thousands of survivors and law enforcement officers to our Nation’s Capital each year.”
The week includes a Washington-area law enforcement memorial service that took place on May 6, a Blue Mass on May 7, a National Police Week 5K involving thousands of runners and walkers and hosted by the Officer Down Memorial Page on May 11, and a series of services, ceremonies, and other events. Ms Faggio and sons Andrew and Nicholas plan to arrive in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.
The Police Unity Tour arrival ceremony is Sunday, May 12, at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. A candlelight vigil will take place on May 13, followed by a survivor’s conference on May 14.
The Unity Tour
Mr Mackenzie said he would be leaving for New Jersey on May 9, where the first leg of a more than 250-mile ride was scheduled to begin on May 10. From there, he would ride to Pennsylvania, then Baltimore, then Washington, DC, where the nine unity tour chapters meet. A combined estimated 2,500 riders then ride through the DC police memorial.
“It’s emotional; people line the streets,” Mr Mackenzie said. He recalls families there holding pictures of fallen mothers and fathers.
The primary purpose of the Police Unity Tour is to raise awareness of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.
The secondary purpose is to raise funds for the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial and Museum.
Also according to policeunitytour.com, “In May 1997, the Police Unity Tour was organized by Officer Patrick P. Montuore of the Florham Park Police Department, with the hope of bringing public awareness of Police Officers who have died in the line of duty and to honor their sacrifices.
What started with 18 riders on a four-day fundraising bicycle ride from Florham Park, N.J., to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, has grown into nine chapters consisting of nearly 2500 members nationwide who make the trip annually.”
In May 2017, the Police Unity Tour was able to donate $2.6 million dollars to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, bringing the total donations to almost $23 million dollars, the site states.
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