This undated photo provided by the Philadelphia Police Department shows Officer Brian Lorenzo. Authorities say Lorenzo was on a motorcycle when he was struck and killed by a vehicle heading the wrong way on Interstate 95, early Sunday, July 8, 2012. Police said Lorenzo was pronounced dead at the scene. He was a 23-year veteran of the force and is survived by a wife and three children. Officers are holding the driver, a 48-year-old man from Levittown, and say charges against him are expected.
Photo credit: (AP Photo/Philadelphia Police Department)
Word spread quickly early Sunday morning, prompting anxiety among members of the area's law enforcement community: Veteran Philadelphia police officer Brian "B-Lo" Lorenzo had been killed on his beloved Harley-Davidson Road King.
These lawmen from Pennsylvania and South Jersey contacted lawyer and friend of the police force Jimmy Binns Sunday morning — most of them normally "rough customers," now weeping uncontrollably, he said. "Just tell me it's not true," they told him. "I had to confirm it was true. He was gone," Binns said.
Lorenzo, 48 — a husband, a father of three and a member of the department's elite Highway Patrol unit — was struck and killed on I-95 by an alleged drunk driver.
The avid motorcyclist had just finished his shift early Sunday at Highway Patrol headquarters on Erie Avenue and was heading north around 3:15 a.m. to his Somerton home. Police alleged the driver, John Leck Jr., of Levittown, Bucks County, cruised his charcoal Audi A-6 the wrong way — southbound onto the northbound lanes — and slammed into the officer just before the Cottman Avenue exit. Lorenzo was still in full uniform.
The 23-year veteran of the force died at the scene.
Leck, also 48, was charged Sunday evening with homicide by vehicle, driving under the influence and related offenses, police said. He was hospitalized at Aria Health-Torresdale in police custody.
"It's just an absolute tragedy," said eputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross. "Many of the men and women in this department are just heartbroken."
Lorenzo and his wife, Linda — who Ross said was "distraught" — have three children: two sons, 4 and 24, and a daughter, 22.
Coincidentally, about an hour before the Philadelphia wreck occurred, an on-duty Millville, N.J., police officer, Christopher Reeves, died after he crashed into a vehicle driven by a suspect trying to flee from police. Reeves' partner was injured in the accident.
Throughout Sunday, condolences and tributes to Lorenzo — called "B-Lo" by colleagues and friends — came in from Mayor Nutter, fellow law-enforcement officers, neighbors and friends.
Highway Patrol officers escorted Lorenzo's body in the morning from the accident scene to the Medical Examiner's Office in University City.
"It's a very difficult thing, for somebody we've known that long," said Inspector Michael Cochrane, who helped to transport Lorenzo and worked with him in Highway Patrol until this spring.
"The ironic thing was he was the go-to guy to do these funerals for all police and firefighters, and now we're gonna be doing it for him," Cochrane said.
Officer Mike Kelly worked with Lorenzo for 15 years in patrol. "He's probably the best human being I ever met in my life. There's not one guy in the Philadelphia Police Department that would ever say anything bad about him," Kelly said. "God bless him."
Police cordoned off Lorenzo's Somerton block Sunday to protect the privacy of mourning relatives, friends and co-workers. But Lorenzo's reputation extended beyond the sawhorses on Hemlock Street.
He was the neighborhood protector and petty crime-solver. And the rumbling of his Harley-Davidson was a sound that they'd come to associate with safety. It meant that he'd returned home to his family — and to his neighbors.
"It was something you looked forward to, like, ‘Oh good, he's home.' He took care of everybody," said neighbor Marge O'Connell.
"He drove the bike by in the morning and you'd see his bright white smile," said Gerri Donatelli, whose daughter grew up with Lorenzo's daughter. "You have a police officer in your neighborhood, it's protection. It was a safety net. My children are devastated."
Nutter, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison, Philadelphia FOP President John McNesby, Highway Patrol Capt. Melvin Singleton Jr. and other Highway Patrol colleagues visited Lorenzo's family during the day.
"For 23 years, Brian Lorenzo went to work every day putting his life on the line for Philadelphians. As a uniformed public servant, a member of the most professional municipal police force in the country, he gave his heart and soul to his job and to all of us," the mayor's statement read.
"Our condolences and prayers go out to Linda, his wife of 25 years, their three children and Brian's entire family, including his brother Manuel, who is a Philadelphia police officer in the 25th District, as they try to cope with the loss of Brian ... a decorated officer who exemplified the very best qualities of law enforcement."
Antonio Lorenzo said his oldest nephew was the pride of his extended family, especially his grandfather, Luis, a native of Puerto Rico who loved to brag about how sharp his grandson looked in his police uniform.
"He kept his Highway Patrol gear shined up to the hilt. You'd look at him and say, ‘That is what a Highway Patrol officer should look like,'" Lorenzo, 53, said outside his nephew's home. "No wrinkles. Dressed, pressed and ready to go."
In a city where more than 40 police officers have been arrested since 2009, Lorenzo's clean-cut look was the manifestation of an honest cop, a true public servant who took his job seriously.
"He loved the city and really wanted to make a difference in society. He'd give you his right arm," Antonio Lorenzo said. "I lost my best friend and my hero. I wouldn't wish this on anyone."
Brian Lorenzo was born in the Bronx, N.Y., and moved here with his family as a child. (His father, Manuel Lorenzo, a former Marine who died in 2001, was active in local Republican politics and the Puerto Rican community and ran for City Council.) Lorenzo graduated from Frankford High School where he met and later married Linda, his high school sweetheart.
Lorenzo was assigned to the 25th District when he graduated from the Police Academy. He worked there for eight years until he transferred to the Highway Patrol unit, where he'd been for the last 15 years.
Binns said the fallen officer took part each year in the annual Hero Thrill Show, which raises college tuition funds for the children of fallen firefighters and police officers killed in the line of duty. Lorenzo was the number two — "an exalted position," Binns said — on the Highway Patrol Motorcycle Drill Team.
A funeral service would likely take place later this week, Ross said.
Contact Regina Medina at (215) 854-5985 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @reginamedina
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