Slain officer Dustin DeMonte remembered by Middletown sports community as 'gentle giant'

Bristol Police Sgt. Dustin DeMonte, is shown at left. At right, firefighters raise a giant American flag outside a vigil in honor of DeMonte and Officer Alex Hamzy.

Bristol Police Sgt. Dustin DeMonte, is shown at left. At right, firefighters raise a giant American flag outside a vigil in honor of DeMonte and Officer Alex Hamzy.


Dustin DeMonte and Jon Faass forged a friendship initiated by mutual friends and nurtured by baseball. For Faass, now 35, those times are alive in his mind and forever precious.

“One of his neighbors was a good friend of mine,” Faass said. “Dustin grew up next to Macdonough School. We played Little League games there. Even if we weren’t playing Little League, we played pick-up baseball there. We were such close friends. Our families are friends.”

Little League sealed that bond when DeMonte and Faass were matched on the same team. The squad was sponsored by Faass’ father’s business, Portland NAPA.

“We were on the same baseball team actually all the way up through high school,” Faass recalled. “Our first season in Little League, we were 0-13 together. Our last year together, we were 13-0.”

As the two — together — wrapped up two years at Woodrow Wilson Middle School and were about to enter Middletown High as freshmen, Faass encouraged DeMonte to give football a shot. DeMonte was tall and had a wide body optimal for any roster.

No chance.

“I couldn’t get him to play football,” Faass, his voice quivering, said, “because he didn’t want to hurt anybody.”

Like so many, Faass is trying to come to terms with the shocking death of his friend. DeMonte, a 35-year-old Bristol police sergeant, and 34-year-old officer Alex Hamzy were killed in the line of duty during an ambush-style shooting at a town residence last week. A third officer, 26-year-old Alec Iurato, was injured before killing the suspect.

The shootings have sent shockwaves across the state. A joint funeral service for DeMonte and Hamzy will be held Friday morning at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.

“Dustin had a big heart. He was just always giving a helping hand,” said Faass. “We used to try to get him to swear in high school, but he wouldn’t swear. He was a gentle giant. Always had a smile on his face. He had a happy-go-lucky personality.

“A police officer, that’s who he was. Someone who wanted to help people and who put people first.”

To fill his fall season with something other than football, DeMonte jumped in as a member of the Blue Dragons band. With his build, he had no trouble shouldering the bass drum in halftime shows and the city’s Memorial Day parade.

“I was on the drumline as a snare player,” said Corey Gordon Sr., who was two years older and good friends with DeMonte’s brother, Phil, “and I just remember that whatever we needed in the band, he would fill in. Dustin had great size, but he was a great teddy bear and one of the nicest people I’ve ever known. Always had a smile on his face and didn’t take life too serious. To see this happen to one of the kindest people makes it even tougher.”

DeMonte tried to learn different instruments, Gordon said, lest the band needed a role filled in a pinch.

“You could tell he was willing,” Gordon said, “and we could count on him to handle the bass drum as an underclassman. It was important for our success. We didn’t have to worry about whether Dustin would show up and take care of business. We didn’t have to check on what he had to do. He followed our leadership back then.

“He sure turned into a leader when he left.”

DeMonte was a student in John Geary’s eighth-grade history class at Wilson Middle, where he also played basketball for the longtime coach and earned the precocious nickname “Big Country.”

“I loved Dustin. He was my center,” Geary said. “He was a big kid, so we called him ‘Big Country.’ And any time I’d get something from him, he would sign it ‘Big Country DeMonte’. You couldn’t ask for a nicer kid. He was a team player, and in thinking about him now, I can’t remember that he ever missed a practice or game. He was the first one there all the time.”

Their student-coach relationship resumed at MHS, where DeMonte would play baseball for Geary’s Blue Dragons for four years.

“A team player, a go-to guy on both of my teams,” he said. “To think he went into the police force did not surprise me, because he was always so helpful. It was like having an assistant (coach). His attitude whether on the court or the field, it was always a smile, never down, always supporting the team. It was always ‘next pitch, next inning, we got this.’”

DeMonte and Faass broke into the varsity lineup as sophomores after some of their older teammates violated team rules during a spring trip to Florida and were dismissed by Geary. The two cherished the chance to make their mark earlier than expected.

“I told them that they had to take advantage of the opportunity,” Geary said. “They jumped at that.”

Though both were most comfortable at the same position, there was never a competition for playing time. They wanted the best for each other.

“We were both catchers growing up,” said Faass, a Middletown captain for their senior year. “If he pitched, I was catching. If he was catching, I was pitching. We were partners in everything. He just loved the game and always had fun. After high school we played in a men’s softball league together probably up until four years ago, for Peterson Electric in Middletown and the Portland NAPA Mudbugs. We put together that team.”

When they were younger, Faass knew DeMonte was interested in a career in law enforcement. They had the shared experience of working with young people – DeMonte in Bristol schools as an extension of his job and Faass with juveniles at the Hartford Detention Center.

“He became a cop a little after I got into the detention center as a supervisor,” Faass said.

Family men, one of their last phone conversations revolved around their spouses and two young children. DeMonte’s widow, Laura, is expecting their third child.

“He was the first one to talk about having a third child,” Faass said. “What he told me is something I’ll never forget. I said, ‘You’re going to have three?’ He said, ‘All I can say is that we have more love to give.’ It’s something that’s stuck with me. It rips your heart out.”