For two decades I have paid close attention to line of duty deaths in law enforcement. I started as a basic risk management technique so I could stay as safe as possible on the street and in the last decade it was also done to supplement training that I was conducting.
Honesty, it is tough to do.
I left my agency’s Honor Guard, in part, after ten years because of the emotional roller coaster of being so close to death and tragedy. I have tremendous respect for those that continue to serve in that capacity.
As an employee with Law Officer over the last few years, I have paid very close attention to these tragedies and there are times it is very tough.
One of the toughest was this Christmas when I woke up and learned about the line of duty death of California Highway Patrol Officer Andrew Camilleri Sr. Camilleri, along with his partner, were hit by an impaired driver on Christmas Eve Night.
My heart broke.
I couldn’t imagine his three children and his wife on Christmas morning after hearing about this tragedy. It has since been reported that Camilleri’s wife let her children open Christmas presents before telling them that their dad would never come home again.
All of this haunted me during the week and part of that was wanting to do something, anything but not knowing what to do.
Then I got my opportunity.
Late on Wednesday I pulled up Facebook and inside a private group of 50,000 Peloton Riders I read this:
I didn’t know Carolyn but we had something in common. We both owned a Peloton Bike.
What Is A Peloton
The fact that I own a Peloton is a modern miracle. It is a spin bike that enables the user to take cycling classes not from a studio but from your home or business. It’s a sleek looking bike with a large screen that streams the classes live or demand to you. Why do I have absolutely zero business having one of these? Because prior to purchasing the bike, I had never been in a spin class. Where is the weight training I thought. It’s nothing but girls I thought. Then the Peloton arrived and I found out that those girls can ride.
The Peloton sits right in the middle of the Law Officer Office. I bought it not because I wanted to cycle but I was enamored by the technology. I had never seen anything like it and for that reason alone I wanted one. It was a silly reason so I had to come up with an excuse to buy it. “I’ll ride for a while and tell the Law Officer audience about it,” I told myself and while I certainly planned to pass the pros and cons to law enforcement on how the Peloton Bike can help them, I wanted to wait several months to do that.
Then I saw the post from Carolyn.
Riding For Andrew
I jumped on my Peloton profile, which others can see when you ride, and changed the logo to a CHP Mourning Badge with this text, “Honoring Officer Andrew Camilleri.” I jumped on the bike five minutes before the class started in New York City on Thursday morning. I immediately saw countless CHP Badges and profiles honoring Andrew. Then just prior to the class beginning, the instructor, Emma Lovewell, looked in the camera and told us that she knew we were there to honor Andrew. I got chills hearing it and I would soon find out that this was not going to be an ordinary ride.
Not only was the enjoyment of cycling a surprise to me but the power of the community that surrounds Peloton is just as important as the technology. I would find out in the next 45 minutes at just how powerful that community was. There were well over 500 people taking the class with me and all of them reside on the right side of a large screen in front of the bike. I choked up as the ride began and I saw how many people that didn’t know Andrew were there to honor them. I pulled Carolyn up on my screen where you can watch her cadence and resistance in real time and I wondered what she thought. Her family was going through incredible grief and here she was giving it all she had with hundreds of others.
The least I could do is give it all I could.
The 45 minute “low impact” ride that Emma kept reminding us of was not going to be low impact. Early on I saw a couple of riders on the leader board that were going hard and they were honoring Andrew in their profile. I needed to do the same.
I didn’t know Dan or Reid but they, along with many more, were riding with Andrew, and I wanted to stay with them. We weren’t on a street but we existed on a screen and we finished the 45 minute ride side by side. The ride was emotional and in a strange way I found that I was not in such a “haunted” state as I was earlier. Honoring our fallen matters, even if it was 45 minutes on a bike with 500 other strangers.
I later found out that Dan was Detective Daniel Ortiz with the East Hartford (CT) Police Department and he can ride. I was trying to catch him the entire time.
Here is what Dan told me after the ride:
“I was honored to be apart of a Peloton ride that helped the family members of recently fallen CHP Officer Andrew Camilleri, cope with his tragic death. Who knew a “bike” could bring so many people from all walks of life together. The purchase of the “bike” is keeping me in shape, but also allowing me the chance to meet so many amazing people. As a police officer in Connecticut for the past 16 years, I felt it was the least that I could do to show Andrew’s family that the Law Enforcement community/family is everywhere and always willing to offer any assistance.”
Dan closed out our conversation by saying the Peloton “is not just a bike. It is a community and lifestyle.”
I know the pain of the Camilleri family is real and it is raw. I know it will never go away and I know this was just a bike ride but it also what the power of a community can do for someone. Yesterday, Carolyn thanked everyone for the ride, “thank you so much for all your comforting thoughts and prayers for us.”
Carolyn, thank you for sharing Andrew with us all and giving us an opportunity to honor him.
After the live ride, anyone can take the ride “on demand.” Many have already done it in honor of Andrew and I intend to do it again, every year on Christmas Eve in honor of CHP Officer Andrew Camilleri. When I take that ride, I will always finish alongside others that rode it for the same reason and there is always a slim chance that I will beat Detective Ortiz.