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Florida cop slain before teens' apparent suicides left 'legacy of caring'

By Vivian Kuo, CNN
updated 5:27 PM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Robert German, 31, was one of 12 officers in Windermere, Florida, a town of 2,500
  • Police say German was fatally shot by two teens who then apparently committed suicide
  • Dad described son as "someone so loyal, fun, helpful, prankish, caring of others -- a hero"
  • Chief: German injured in earlier incident with autistic boy but more concerned about boy

(CNN) -- Hundreds of mourners remembered fallen Windermere, Florida, police officer Robert German on Thursday in a moving tribute that elicited both laughter and tears.

German, 31, was fatally shot on duty Saturday by two teens who had run away from home, police said. It appears the teenagers later turned the gun on themselves.

German's death has profoundly affected the small town, where he was employed as a police officer for five years.

Just west of Orlando, Windermere is known for its luxurious homes and close-knit residents. German was one of only 12 full-time officers in the town with about 2,500 people.

He left behind parents Tim and Deborah German as well as twin sisters.

"Debbie and I have been complimented routinely this week by many on what a great job we as parents did in raising Robbie: Someone so loyal, fun, helpful, prankish, caring of others -- a hero," Tim German said, his voice quavering during the memorial Thursday in Longwood, Florida.

"Son, we love you so much, and we'll miss you dearly beyond earthly measure ... but your legacy of caring, in your Robbie way, will live on through all of us who remember you, knew you, loved you."

Teenagers Brandon Goode and Alexandria Hollinghurst apparently took their own lives, police say.
Teenagers Brandon Goode and Alexandria Hollinghurst apparently took their own lives, police say.

Tim spoke with affection about his son's fun-loving, endearing personality that dovetailed with his drive to become a law enforcement officer. For Robert German, that meant working during the day and going to night school.

"He didn't give up. He had a dream, finally got a job at Windermere. He was thrilled and very excited. From that point, we saw him grow again, and he became increasingly service-oriented and caring of others," the father said.

At the time of his shooting, German had just returned to the force after being on "light-duty status" following surgery for an injury he suffered six months earlier.

He had responded to a scene involving an autistic person, Windermere police Chief Dave Ogden said, standing before German's flag-draped casket.

Recognizing the situation, German "de-escalated the situation, he went hands-on, and he ended up receiving the injury."

Following the matter, German simply asked after the other individual involved.

"'Chief, I'm OK, but I really hope that boy's OK. I know he didn't mean it,'" Ogden recalled German telling him. "But that's Robbie. Without care or concern for himself, he knew the situation."

Investigators are still trying to piece together the events leading up to German's death.

Two days before the shooting, Brandon Goode, 18, and Alexandria "Alex" Hollinghurst, 17, both of Davenport, Florida, reportedly ran away from home, leaving only letters behind for their families to find.

"To my loving parents, I am sorry for all the pain and misery I have brought you both, not just now but from these past few years as well," begins Goode's note, handwritten in neat, even letters.

"I don't want to go through life knowing because of my mistakes that I amounted to nothing and was there fore a disappointment. Don't take that as me putting the blame on you because that is the furthest thing from the truth. Both of you have been so amazing with your constant help and support through my life."

Goode was arrested in February on charges of possession of alcohol while underage and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. He had also been arrested in 2012 in an alleged aggravated assault on his mother, according to incident reports from the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

"I love you with all my heart," the letter continues. "Please don't be sad, this is what I want now, I get to die peacefully with the woman I love, the woman of my dreams, my fiancé (yes we were engaged!). I miss you both so much already."

Hollinghurst penned two loving missives addressed to her sister and father, but to her mother, she directed a bitter letter that suggests the two had a turbulent relationship.

Once the letters were found, the couple's parents called police to alert them to the teens' disappearances.

Using cell phone tracking technology, Kissimmee police officers found the two parked in Goode's car. When the officer asked Goode to step out of the automobile, he "cranked the vehicle, put the vehicle in drive and sped away," according to a Polk County Sheriff's Office incident report.

Later, Kissimmee police filed a warrant to charge Goode with resisting a law enforcement officer without violence and reckless driving.

Early Saturday, German encountered the duo walking along a street and called for assistance.

When deputies responded to the scene, they found German "lying on the roadway, mortally wounded," the Orange County Sheriff's Office said. The deputies performed what is called a tactical rescue, using a patrol car to shield their fallen comrade.

That's when they heard two gunshots.

Upon searching nearby woods, Orange County sheriff's deputies found Goode and Hollinghurst dead, lying in some brush, from what are believed to be self-inflicted wounds.

It's perhaps the lack of any available explanations after Goode's death that will haunt his parents the most.

"We cannot comprehend the senseless loss of Officer German's life, the death of Alexandria Hollinghurst and for our family, the loss of our 18-year-old son, Brandon," Ricke and Connie Goode said in a statement issued Wednesday to CNN affiliates WESH-TV and Central Florida News 13.

"Words do not exist to express the measure of our sorrow and sadness. Our deepest sympathy and our heartfelt prayers go out to the friends and family of Officer German. We are so, so sorry to them for what happened and they will be forever in our prayers. We know a community grieves and like everyone else in our community, we ourselves are struggling to understand this most horrific tragedy. We have no answers, only questions."

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