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Virginia Communities Remember Police Officers Who Died After Charlottesville Protests

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Three people died last weekend in Charlottesville, Va., in connection with the violence between white supremacist groups and counter-demonstrators there. Thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer was killed when a white supremacist drove into a crowd of protesters. And two state troopers also died. They had been monitoring the events from above. They were returning to their base when their helicopter crashed. Mallory Noe-Payne of member station WVTF went to the funeral of one of those troopers.

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MALLORY NOE-PAYNE, BYLINE: Family, friends and officials, including Virginia's governor, gathered in a church just outside Richmond for the funeral of State Trooper Berke Bates. Bates had served as part of Governor Terry McAuliffe's personal unit for three years.

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TERRY MCAULIFFE: These individuals live with you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They're part of our family. We lost a brother. I will miss him greatly.

NOE-PAYNE: Bates, who was 40, had recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of becoming a pilot. And he was also an avid hockey fan. He coached his 12-year-old son's team, and a contingent of young players in uniform filled three rows. Colonel Steven Flaherty is superintendent of the Virginia State Police. He knew of Bates' talent as a coach.

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STEVEN FLAHERTY: He was able to instill in these kids a love for the game, a respect for the game and instilled in them this desire to be all they could be, to be the best.

NOE-PAYNE: Bates' funeral comes six days after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Bates and Lieutenant Jay Cullen were supporting the police on the ground by doing surveillance from the air. Flaherty says they were there to help people exercise their most fundamental right.

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FLAHERTY: To exercise their free speech. That's why he was there. That's why we were all there.

NOE-PAYNE: But before Bates and Cullen could land, their helicopter crashed just outside of town. Investigators say they'll have a better picture of what caused the crash in a couple weeks. The accident shocked Captain Mark Sticca.

MARK STICCA: I just can't imagine how complicated and complex a situation that was for the commanders on site down there to try and compartmentalize what has to be done right now and still maintain safety at that rally, still maintain safety for everybody else who wasn't involved in the rally, just that day-to-day routine stuff and, again, find the time to grieve.

NOE-PAYNE: The grieving will continue tomorrow. State troopers, local police and the governor will gather for the funeral of 48-year-old Jay Cullen. He had been flying for the state police for 20 years. The lieutenant leaves behind a wife and two kids. For NPR News, I'm Mallory Noe-Payne in Richmond, Va.

(SOUNDBITE OF SENOR LOOP SONG, "LO QUE HAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.