EVANS, N.Y. (WIVB) - The Evans Police Department is remembering a young officer killed in an off-duty motorcycle crash on Friday.
Outside their headquarters, the memorial to Officer Frederick Garrasi III is growing. People have added their mementos to his patrol car, covered in black and purple bunting by his fellow officers. There are flowers, messages written into the dust on car's hood with a fingertip.
"I'm amazed at the tribute that the residents are paying Officer Garrasi," Evans Police Chief Ernest Masullo told News 4 Saturday evening. "Never, in my 35 years [in law enforcement], have I seen any type of memorial like this for a police officer."
Since Friday night, a steady stream of friends, relatives and citizens of Evans and Angola have stood silently next to Officer Garrasi's for just a few moments, paying their respects.
"He was a great kid. He would've made -- he was making, becoming an excellent police officer," Masullo says. "He had character. He had a great smile. He got along with everybody, even the people he arrested. One called me up and thanked me for hiring this officer. He apologized, and said he was treated very well by Officer Garrasi. I'm just amazed... What more can you say about it?"
Garrasi had just been promoted from part-time to full-time with the police department in February, a rare opportunity that his fellow officers say he was very excited about. Garrasi had worked his way up, completing the police academy and joining Evans as a part-time officer in December 2011.
"When I hired him, I just knew," Masullo recalls. "You know, you have that gut feeling. Sometimes you don't know what's going to happen when you hire these people to be police officers. But my gut was right. He's going to be greatly missed. He had a very bright future as a police officer. Unfortunately, it was cut short."
Garrasi absolutely loved police work, his chief says.
"He worked the midnight platoon, the night platoon. I would come in periodically, and he'd literally be dancing around, happy, doing his job. It's rare."
Evans Police write on the department's Facebook page that they've lost "not only... a fine and dedicated officer, but a wonderful and caring young man."
Garrasi's death is the second time Evans Police have lost one of their own this way. Officer Terry Addison died in an off-duty motorcycle crash at Routes 5 and 20 on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in August 2002.
"They say lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place," Masullo sighed. "But in this case, it does. Not true."
Chief Masullo wants to thank the community for the outpouring of support.
"If I can say anything, I'm so proud of the people of this town, for what they did," he said.
Officer Garrasi was on the minds of the crowd that gathered for a motorcycle safety rally in downtown Buffalo on Saturday.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, "As many of you know, there was an accident yesterday that claimed the life of an off-duty Evans Police officer who was riding his motorcycle to his dental appointment. We need to do a better job, each and every one of us, when we get behind the wheel or we get behind the handlebars of a bike, to ensure that we are protecting not only ourselves, but the other people that are on the road."
Erie County Commissioner of Central Police Services John Glascott added, "It certainly hits home, when it's one of our own... When it's a young police officer just starting off his career and he dies so tragically, that hurts. It hurts."
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