Northeast Tarrant

Slain officer remembered for acts of heroism small and large

Officer David Hofer's End of Watch

Euless Police Dispatch bids farewell to officer David Hofer, badge No. 554.
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Euless Police Dispatch bids farewell to officer David Hofer, badge No. 554.

Euless police officer David Hofer “led with his heart,” wrote poetry and was known to withdraw $100 from his bank account to help a homeless family he encountered on the job. Although the 29-year-old had a softer, gentler side, his final act on earth was one of selfless courage in the face of gunfire to protect the community he had sworn to serve.

Under a pale blue sky and bathed in warm sunlight at Pennington Field, thousands of Northeast Tarrant residents and law enforcement personnel from as far away as Colorado and New York said goodbye Saturday to a hero who demonstrated that compassion has much to do with police work. Thousands more lined the streets for a funeral procession rarely seen in the North Texas suburbs.

Hofer, who moved from the New York Police Department to the nearly 100-member Euless police force in 2014, was slain Tuesday by a troubled young man who had been released from the Euless Jail hours earlier. He was remembered in a 75-minute service as much for good humor and kindness as well as his unwavering dedication to law enforcement.

“What I remember about David is his humor and his smile, and his enormous heart,” Euless Police Chief Michael Brown said in his eulogy. “You could say that David Hofer is one of those rare people you meet in life who led with his heart.”

Blue uniforms from visiting officers filled about 80 percent of the visitors’ section of the 12,500-seat stadium, while Euless officers sat front and center in the main seating section. Grand Prairie officers took shifts at the Euless Police Department so those officers could attend.

“Somber,” Bedford police Sgt. Noel Scott said, describing the mood of the day as his contingent of officers loaded up for the short trip home. But seeing so many law enforcement agencies represented there was moving, he said. “It shows that all the officers in this profession care about each other. It doesn’t matter how far away they work; they’ll travel the distance to pay their respects.”

Fatal ambush

Hofer was killed Tuesday afternoon, ambushed by Jorge Brian Gonzalez, who police said stole firearms from a home, fired random shots and took a “position of cover” several hours after being released from jail.

Hofer was one of the first officers to reach J.A. Carr Park that afternoon, and Gonzalez, hiding in a drainage ditch while waiting for responding officers, opened fire on Hofer. Another officer returned fire, and Hofer and Gonzalez were pronounced dead at hospitals soon after.

The procession to transport Hofer’s body from Lucas Funeral Home in Hurst to Pennington Field began about 11:15 a.m. Law enforcement vehicles lined up for the procession on Precinct Line Road.

At Pennington Field, bicycles, motorcycles, horses, firetrucks and police vehicles lined up with their lights, waiting for Hofer’s casket. The firetrucks’ ladders were raised to hold a giant American flag.

Another flag flew from the Hurstview Bridge over Airport Freeway as the procession traveled underneath.

Black and blue was a common theme of color worn by the public. Signs noted that “Blue Lives Matter.”

“These men and women are out here every day to take care of us, and the least we can do is show up and honor them,” said Connie Scott of Hurst. She and her husband, Robert Scott, stood next to the procession vehicles holding U.S. flags.

“We’re here to hold a flag and show a lot of love,” Connie Scott said. “We can’t understand everything they’re going through, but we can show up and support them and let the flag do the talking.”

The ceremony was filled at times with music of a bagpipe and drum corps, formed by several local police agencies, and other times with complete silence, as when the audience watched the flag-draped casket being carried from the hearse in the northwest corner of the field to the 50-yard line.

“It is a sad day for the city of Euless and its citizens,” said Jim Pack, chaplain of the Euless Police Department, as he opened the ceremony. “It is a reminder that safety in a free society comes with a high price.”

Making plans

Hofer’s father, Helmut Hofer, a renowned mathematician and a professor at Princeton University, recalled a softer side of his youngest son.

“He liked to write poetry — but he always concealed this from his fellow officers,” Helmut Hofer said to a round of laughter, one of several lighthearted moments at the service. He said his son had modest plans when he took the Euless job, and the father urged those in attendance to do what they can to make the world a better, safer place.

“Let’s keep our kids out of trouble,” he said. “Some cases are hopeless, but most are not. David made the ultimate sacrifice while doing the job for us. But there are many less dangerous things you can do for our communities to make them better.”

Thousands lined Airport Freeway and gathered at Pennington Field in Hurst to honor the life of Euless police officer David Hofer who was killed in the line of duty. (Video by Jared L. Christopher)

Brown recalled one of David Hofer’s first late-night traffic stops in Euless. What Hofer found was a homeless family living out of their car, looking for a safe place to park for the night.

“He goes to an ATM machine, takes out $100 and gives it to the family,” Brown said. Another officer called out: “David, what are you doing? You just got here. You don’t have enough money for yourself right now.” Brown said Hofer “reportedly smiled that big smile and said: ‘Bro, we got a great life here. Sometimes you just gotta share.’ 

Hofer’s fiancee, Marta Danylyk, focused first on his sense of humor and then addressed him directly.

“I adore everything about you,” she said. “I’m proud of you. It’s my absolute honor and privilege to be the one you chose to love.”

Gathering support

Lesa Hayen of Fort Worth looked around at the officers honoring one of their own. Her husband, James Hayen, has been a police officer for more than 30 years, she said, and this tragedy hits hard at home.

“My heart breaks for his [Hofer’s] fiancee and his family but most of all her because they had a future planned and one person decided they shouldn’t have that future,” Lesa Hayen said. “We can honor him by appreciating what these men and women do, understanding they see things we can’t begin to imagine.”

Hayen said a small act of going out of your way to thank an officer for his or her service can have a big impact.

“It makes a big difference to see the support of everyday people,” Hayen said. “Just by saying thank you and being respectful when you get pulled over, it makes a big difference.”

William Ryan, a Caddo Mills patrol officer, said the slaying of Hofer has sparked a lot of support from the public, and it’s meaningful to officers to know that “a lot of the community has our back.”

Deadly work

The last officer to die in the line of duty in Tarrant County was Arlington officer Jillian Michelle Smith, who was shot in the head while responding to a domestic dispute in December 2010.

Hofer is among 10 officers who have died on duty in Tarrant County since 2001. He is the 16th officer in the nation to die in the line of duty this year.

Hofer had worked in Euless since 2014, after moving from New York, where he had been an officer with the New York Police Department for five years. Friends and family have said he moved to Euless to be in a safer place.

Hofer, the youngest of three children, was born in New Jersey and lived in Germany, Switzerland and New York, as his father moved to different schools. The family moved to New York when Hofer was in the fifth grade, after his father accepted a position at New York University. Hofer graduated from Saint Ann’s High School in 2005 and NYU in 2008.

“My heart goes out to Officer Hofer’s family during this difficult time,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. “Our police officers put their lives on the line every day to ensure that our communities are safe, and we can never say thank you enough. Cecilia and I will keep the officer’s family and the entire Euless community in our thoughts and prayers as they heal from this tragedy.”

Many other police departments and officers have voiced their sympathies and support for Hofer’s family, friends and colleagues.

“It’s a sad day for this community, this region, and the state of Texas,” Brown said. “We lost a friend. A family lost a son and a brother. A fiancee lost the love of her life.”

The ceremony ended with the traditional last call of a fallen officer. A Euless police dispatcher, in a recording for the service, called out over the loudspeakers, “Euless to Officer David Hofer, Badge 5-5-4,” repeating it twice. There is no response. “Officer David Hofer, we will miss your smile, your humor, your friendship, and your accent. Thank you for your service.”

Robert Cadwallader: 817-390-7186, @Kaddmann_ST

How to help

Two official funds have been set up. You may make checks payable to EPBO (Euless Police Benevolent Organization), My Credit Union, 1014 N. Industrial Blvd., Euless, TX 76039, or Gofundme, Official Euless PD, Ofr. David Hofer, tinyurl.com/hpzaco3.

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