July 16, 2009 was a day that most of us in the Jersey City Police Department will remember forever. It was 5 years ago that 5 officers from JCPD were shot and wounded in two separate gun battles.

Officer Marc Lavelle was wounded in the street confrontation with Hassan Shakur and Amanda Anderson.  Marc DiNardo, Frank Molina, Mike Camacho, and Dennis Mitchell were wounded in the second confrontation inside during a room-by-room search for the two suspects.  Both Shakur and Anderson were killed in the gun battle. Mike Camacho and Marc DiNardo were seriously wounded. Marc DiNardo died later from his injuries.

How does one thank an officer for thinking nothing of himself, but only of protecting life and property?  A mere thank you seems so small compared to the enormity of the task that police perform every day. Some would say “why thank them?” They signed up for this duty. Why should we thank someone for doing his job?

Because without those officers, who among us in society would be willing to enter a building knowing there’s an armed pair somewhere inside ready and waiting to kill them? Who among us could believe that an officer would do this every day without hesitation?   I knew these officers would, they always have for me.  I was their commander that fateful day.

For years now, I have struggled to find the words to make things better or right for those officers. I said I was sorry for their loss so many times, but “I’m sorry” wasn’t what they needed or wanted (although I’m sure it helped somewhat).

Thank you just seemed so small and to fall short in so many ways. How can I, as a commander, thank these men for giving their all just because I asked them to do what needed to be done?

It was more than that, much more.   When the truest measure of an LEO came, they had to fight for their lives in a pitched gun battle. When two of their comrades lay seriously wounded, they did more than their jobs. They reached down deep into that place that many of us have had to reach into. That place that gave us the courage, drive, and wisdom to survive this gun fight, to safely evacuate their comrades under fire, and to end this battle before anyone else was wounded.

In the quiet and solitude of my thoughts 5 years later, I can think of no other words but thank you. Especially thank you Marc Anthony DiNardo for giving your fullest measure and making the ultimate sacrifice. It was a privilege to have known and served with you.

We best remember our fallen comrades not by only mourning their loss, but by carrying on our own lives as they would have liked us to. Rest in peace, my friend.   To Mike, Frank, Marc, and Dennis, you all are still in my thoughts and prayers every day with eternal thanks for having served with you.

Captain Robert Cubby served for 38 years with the Jersey City (NJ) Police Department, now retired.  A PTSD survivor, he has been involved in PTSD issues with the CISM team.  A prolific author, Captain Cubby focuses on writing about his experiences and solving police problems. He is a National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) instructor about police matters and a frequent conference speaker.