HPD officers stick together no matter what.
A story from this past February aptly illustrates this great tradition. The story entails how a young HPD officer working nights out of Central Patrol did what he could to make better the worst day in the life of retired Senior Police Officer Charlie Berryman.
Kellie Gibson, Berryman’s granddaughter, recounted the same story she detailed in a letter to Police Chief Art Acevedo heartily commending Officer Danny Allen III for going the extra miles for a retired officer and his family. You might say it was the very essence of the job done by an HPD officer.
Losing a Loved One
Mary Lynn Berryman, 86, was the light of Charlie’s life for the past 58 years of marriage, 33 of which he threw in with either the Accident Division, SWAT or the Bomb Squad. He retired in 2005. The record shows Charlie regularly referred to Mary Lynn as “my bride.” The family deeply admires the dedication “Grandma” had for her husband and the department.
As Gibson details, her grandma had been extremely ill in recent months, suffering from leukemia and, as diagnosed in December, Alzheimer’s. The family provided the finest care possible, staying in almost constant contact with Grandma’s doctors.
Facetime with one doctor led Charlie and the family to believe Grandma was in her final days, perhaps even her last hours. As the eldest of the three Berryman children, Kellie was determined to learn the steps needed to be taken upon the death of a loved one.
She conferred with HPD Family Assistance and learned that upon death: Call 911, report a death by natural causes and request a Houston Fire supervisor who could officially designate that a person had passed away. Then HPD would enter the picture to report to the coroner. Once the coroner’s work was completed, the family could call a funeral home. All of this is routine for police officers and firefighters.
Grandma passed away on just past 11 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4.
Enter Officer Allen
Then this story took a fateful turn for the best: Night shift patrol Officer Danny Allen, Academy Class No. 237, arrived at the Berryman’s Lindale Park residence.
Gibson, Grandpa and the other family members see Officer D. Allen for the first time as he walks in with the man in HFD blue. At first they didn’t see his face.
Officer Allen looks to his right and sees the entire wall that commemorates the career of Officer Berryman. HPD to the rescue!
Then a funny thing happened – actually, at the right moment.
Allen turns around to face the family wearing a Dallas Cowboys mask.
“He turned around and we busted out laughing,” Gibson recalled, “because Grandma was such a Cowboys hater. Me, C. J. and Grandpa just chuckled.”
Allen did everything to put the family at ease, saying how sorry he was for the loss of this loved one.
Then he got down to the routine police business in DOA cases like this one. “He was calm, concise in what he needed, took excessive notes and at all times respectful of the situation,”
“He went outside to work on his report and came back a couple of times (still in the Cowboys mask after we offered to give him a different one) to ask questions and answer questions of an official on the phone.”
Above and Beyond ‘the Job’
There develops a large amount of hurry-up-and-wait time while the formalities that will be applied to a death certificate unfurl. In that meantime, Officer Allen “talked police” with retired Officer
Berryman, effectively serving “to keep us calm while waiting for the pieces of the death circus to fall into place.
To his grandchildren and great grandchildren, Charlie always expressed his love for Mary Lynn by lovingly calling her “my bride.” Earlier, he had expressed the desire to remove the wedding ring from his bride’s finger. Such a move is forbidden until there is a death ruling and the body is ready to be turned over to a mortician.
Allen approached Grandma and very carefully, precisely removed her wedding ring and gently handed it to the bride’s husband.
Allen stayed with the family until the funeral home officials completed their work. It was past 3 a.m.
“I understand,” Gibson wrote to Police Chief Art Acevedo, “this is Officer Allen’s job. I understand he was just doing his job.
“However, this officer went above and beyond in getting and giving respect to my grandma and our family.
“Officer Allen not only did his job, he did it with heart. He did it with dignity. He did it with compassion and my entire family will always be grateful for his presence on that horrible night.”
Contacted while he was resting up before going on the weekend night shift, Allen said he was inspired to become a police officer by his uncle, now retired Galveston County Chief Deputy Sheriff Don Allen.
Allen said he didn’t recall having any problems with the fire officials at the scene and emphasized that his main concern was the Berryman family.
“I wanted to give them a spiritual uplifting while being in a traumatic situation just after they lost a loved one who was a dear friend, wife and grandmother,” Officer Allen said.
“I felt in my heart to be there that night to tell them that God is still here for their family. Just because He takes one of our loved ones at night doesn’t mean He won’t be there for us the next morning.
“I felt it was my job to tell them that when they wake up in the morning there will be more joy than they had that night with their grandmother falling to her death that night.”
And, yes, Allen remains a Dallas Cowboys fan.
“As I was leaving,” Allen recalled with a smile, “they said, ‘You did everything right except for the Cowboys mask.’ ”