‘We will never, ever forget him:’ Celebration of life for Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — On Friday, hundreds filled St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Richmond to celebrate the life of Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates.

He was one of the members of Virginia State Police killed last Saturday in a helicopter crash near Charlottesville.

“What Berke would want us to do is walk out of here today with smiles on our face, love in our heart, putting our hand out to help someone better their lives,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe. “Because that’s what Berke Bates did for all of us.”

Bates was part of the governor’s executive protection unit.

“I have a lot of good stories about Berke Bates…many of them I cannot tell,” the governor said with a laugh.

Those who knew him spoke of his love for his wife, Amanda, and their two children. They said he also loved celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and hockey.

“As a hockey player, Berke was no stranger to a scuffle,” said Special Agent Benjamin Fargo with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “He was fearless in the face of conflict and he was just the kind of trooper you wanted around you when things went south.”

Fargo said Bates always felt the need to leave people better than he found them.

“He understood that out of all the tools and weapons that we are given, the most powerful tool we have is the power of discretion,” he said. “Not everybody needs a ticket. Not everybody needs to go to jail. He recognized that and he used it as a chance to change people’s lives for the better.”

Colonel W. Steven Flaherty said Bates went to Charlottesville last weekend with a purpose more than surveillance as part of the aviation team.

“What Berke was there to do was help facilitate our most precious right,” said Flaherty. “He was there to help facilitate the right for the people in Charlottesville that day to exercise their free speech.”

Flaherty said Bates captured video of the pursuit after a driver plowed into a crowd of people during the violence in Charlottesville.

“We caught the murderer because of the work [he] was doing.”

Flaherty said the video will be used as evidence in that case.

After the ceremony, everybody went outside for the presentation of the flags by Governor Terry McAuliffe and Colonel W. Steven Flaherty to the family.

Several aircraft flew overhead and the sounds of Amazing Grace by bagpipes filled the air.

“As we mourn the loss of this incredible guy, please take some comfort in knowing that his integrity, his honor and his compassion is going to live on,” Flaherty said. “We will never, ever forget him. I promise you.”

On Saturday, a funeral will be held for Lt. H. Jay Cullen, who was also killed in the helicopter crash.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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