Patrolman Avery Freeman
Chester Police Department, Pennsylvania
End of Watch: Monday, April 30, 2012
Tour of Duty: 17 years
Badge Number: 225
Cause of Death: Duty related illness
Date of Incident: March 31, 2012
Weapon Used: Not available
Suspect Info: Not available
Agency Contact Information
Commissioner Joseph Bail Jr.
Chester Police Department
160 E 7th Street
Chester, PA 19013
Phone: (610) 447-7931
Patrolman Avery Freeman succumbed to complications of a surgery required after injuring his knee while on duty.
On March 31, 2012, he and another officer had arrested a female subject at the scene of a domestic disturbance. As Patrolman Freeman walked back to his patrol car he slipped on wet, moss-covered bricks and fell, injuring both knees. The injuries were severe enough that surgery was required. As he recovered from the surgery at the Taylor Rehabilitation Center he suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism.
Patrolman Freeman had served in law enforcement for 17 years. He is survived by his four children, mother, and siblings.
CHESTER — City Patrolman Avery Freeman was laid to rest with full police honors Monday, surrounded by family and friends bonded by blood, badge or both.
From the winding motorcade and riderless horse to precision salutes and helicopter flyover, final goodbyes in Chester Rural Cemetery were expressed more by actions than words. With one powerful exception: A symbolic last 911 dispatch.
When the dispatcher’s voice fell silent, it signaled the retirement of badge 225, which Freeman proudly wore for the last 15 years.
“It’s one of the hardest things any police administrator has to do,” Chester police Commissioner Joseph Bail Jr. said hours later, though the moment was still fresh in his mind.
Earlier, during services at St. Luke Community Christian Church, Bail spoke about “officers of the thin blue line” as problem solvers.
“This is a problem we can’t solve. We can’t bring Avery back,” Bail reiterated Monday night.
Freeman died April 30 from what an autopsy determined was a pulmonary embolism due to or as a consequence of lower extremity surgery, according to city Detective James Nolan, who is also president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge No. 19.
According to reports, Freeman was hospitalized after taking a fall while on-duty in the wee hours March 31. He and Officer Kyle Battinieri were conducting a follow-up investigation to a domestic disturbance. Freeman took a female into custody and while walking, slipped on wet, moss-covered bricks. Battinieri had walked ahead, but heard Freeman yell out in pain, and then complain of extreme pain in his knees. Freeman was taken to Crozer-Chester Medical Center.
Authorities said he was recuperating from surgery on both knees at Taylor Rehabilitation Center when he died. He was 49.
Monday, Nolan said it was important for him to be part of the honors funeral, though it’s never an easy task.
“You know what you have to do and you do it. You sit down and you come up with a plan,” Nolan said. “You can’t let the emotion get to you. You think about that later.”
Nolan and Freeman joined the force about the same time. And they made fast friends.
“He made friends with anybody,” Nolan said.
Freeman’s death is “a true loss” to the police department and to the city, Nolan said. Though he wasn’t required, Nolan noted Freeman remained a city resident.
“He never moved,” he said.
Bail and Freeman were not only brothers in blue, but neighbors.
“He lived four doors away,” Bail said.
According to a “Celebration of Life” booklet, as a child, Freeman attended Sunday school at St. Luke’s. He also sang in the church choir, served as an altar boy and was a member of the Cub Scouts. A 1980 graduate of Chester High School, he went on to Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., where he received an associate degree in business in 1982 and a Bachelor of Science in management in 1984. After graduation, he worked as an environmental supervisor at hospitals in Virginia, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, New York and Bryn Mawr.
His career path took a turn in 1995, when he graduated from the Philadelphia Police Academy. Over the years, Freeman was recognized for his services with the Chester Police Department. In March 2004, he received an award for life saving and in November 2006, one for valor.
But Freeman was more than a police officer. He was a beloved father, son, brother, grandson, nephew and friend.
“My dad was a huge inspiration and on his days off, he would be there to cheer me on for my sports and band stuff,” son Miles Avery Evan Freeman wrote in the booklet. “One of the last events he attended was to see me performing with my indoor percussion group and the first thing he asked me when I visited him in the hospital was, ‘How’s the drumming coming along?’”
Miles wrote that the set of professional cymbals for his drums was the last birthday gift from his father, and one “I will love forever.”
Miles said he would miss fishing trips with his dad, as well as riding around in his truck.
The 10-page booklet is filled with photographs of Freeman, a man of large stature whose life was full of family, friends and fun.
“You were so much fun to be with, and you were such a good person,” wrote one of his friends, Satora Ross.
City police Capt. James Chubb, who was Freeman’s supervisor on D Platoon, said Freeman was a people person, which made him good at the job.
“He was my senior patrolman,” Chubb said.
Both Bail and Chubb said Freeman was known for his deep voice, but wasn’t always one to project his words.
“When Avery spoke, you really had to listen,” Chubb said, fondly.
As if Freeman had a language all his own, Bail said it wasn’t uncommon for someone to kiddingly ask, “Do you speak Avery?”
Officer Jonathan Ross, another member of D Platoon that covered the 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. shift, said Freeman eagerly shared his experience and guided new officers.
“As a new officer in 2006, I had my share of training officers … those who prepared you for your first solo day on the street,” Ross said. “Many of us came from different police departments before landing a full-time job in Chester and we thought we knew what police work was. What Avery showed a new officer was the part of police work that you have to learn for yourself … Avery was a veteran who would speak to you about an arrest and analyze the multitude of possible outcomes.
“Avery was more than just a brotherly figure. Avery was a friend to all who worked with him,” Ross said.
Ross and other members or former members of D Platoon — Battinieri, Gary Richardson, Marc Barag, Melissa Goodman, Steven Byrne, William Dowd and Roosevelt Turner — served as pallbearers. The platoon also included Sgt. Marilyn Lee, Cpl. Larry Weigand and Officer Nick Kruczaj.
“We lost a very important part of our family, but his memory will continue to endure in the officers who serve this fine city,” Ross said.
The procession from church to the cemetery included a pass by the Chester Police Department, city police Capt. Joseph Massi said.
Clouds loomed, but the rain held back as the motorcade, led by the haunting sounds of bagpipes and drums, wound its way to the grave site.
One after another, marked police cars and other vehicles snaked along the narrow paths. Freeman’s vehicle, 24-13, was among them.
Officers from several departments were represented, including Upland, Ridley Park, Haverford, Marple, Tinicum, Philadelphia, Delaware County Park Police and Delaware State Police.
Joseph Kane, who retired from the Chester police force about two years ago, arrived early. As the lone bugler, he took his place a distance away from the canopy.
A sea of uniformed officers stood several deep in honor of their fallen comrade. Nolan served as color guard commander.
The Rev. George W. Anderson said a brief prayer and committed Freeman’s body to the earth.
The Rev. William “Rocky” Brown, a city police chaplain, reminded that love for Freeman, and memories, will live on.
“Earth has no sorrow heaven cannot heal,” Brown said.
A resolution from the FOP, Lodge No. 19, was read aloud by city Detective Joseph McFate. A 21-gun salute was followed by “Taps” and “Amazing Grace.”
Faint sobs from where the family gathered under and around the canopy could be heard. Tears streamed down the cheeks of several officers.
The flag, which had draped Freeman’s casket, was reverently folded and presented, by Nolan, to Freeman’s mother, Delia D. Freeman-Bowling.
Standing behind Freeman-Bowling was son Marlowe Freeman. A 20-year veteran with the Chester Police Force, he was dressed in full color guard uniform.
Mourners dropped rose petals on the casket as they paid their last respects.