Va. po­lice died do­ing what they loved

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY RACHEL WEINER rachel.weiner@wash­

Fly­ing a he­li­copter was Berke Bates’s dream job. A week be­fore start­ing classes to pi­lot he­li­copters and a day be­fore his 41st birth­day, the Vir­ginia na­tive and state po­lice trooper was killed in a crash while pa­trolling a white na­tion­al­ist rally in Char­lottesville.

Killed along with him was State Po­lice Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48. They had just re­turned from drop­ping off Gov. Terry McAuliffe, said Bates’s fa­ther, Robert Bates, when they were asked to surveil the vi­o­lence.

“This is the job he al­ways wanted, which was fly­ing,” said Robert Bates, 80, who him­self flew planes for the Navy and had helped his son learn the ba­sics. “That’s what he wanted to do all his life.”

The Bell 407 he­li­copter that Cullen pi­loted crashed about 5 p.m. in the city where pro­test­ers clashed with neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan mem­bers. Hours ear­lier, a car plowed into the pro­test­ers and killed a 32-year-old woman.

Cullen was tex­ting with his fa­ther ear­lier in the day as the chaos un­folded.

“He said it was an ab­so­lute mess,” Henry Cullen re­called. But his son told him that he had been as­signed to work the rally and would do his job.

“Jay was the great­est son a per­son could ever have, a great fa­ther to his two sons, a lov­ing hus­band to his wife, Karen, and he was do­ing some­thing that he loved,” Henry Cullen said.

Bates was re­cruited by the Vir­ginia State Po­lice from Florida, his fa­ther said, where he dis­tin­guished him­self as a high­way pa­trol­man by res­cu­ing a young girl who had been kid­napped.

“He made a lot of ar­rests,” Robert Bates said of his youngest son. “He was a good trooper.”

He had pre­vi­ously served as part of McAuliffe’s se­cu­rity de­tail.

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