A tiny girl wearing orange polka dot pants stood among hundreds of law enforcement officers standing at attention outside the University of Dayton Arena.
Bra’lynn Pate of Dayton, who will be 5 in a couple weeks, loves unicorns and wore her sparkly rainbow striped sneakers last week to the funeral for Dayton police Detective Jorge DelRio.
The little girl also loves police officers and tells her father, Union City Patrol Officer and Trotwood resident Darnell Pate, she is going to be one when she grows up.
“She absolutely adores what I do and constantly tells people about it,” Pate said. “I talked to her about the officer passing away and asked if she wanted to go with Daddy to say goodbye. What better way to show her what my blue family is like?”
A photograph of the girl, the top of her head barely reaching the duty belt worn by her father, was published in the Dayton Daily News and media outlets around the world following the funeral.
We have since learned the story behind the photo.
When Bra’lynn asked how DelRio died, Pate said he “tried to explain the best way I could that he was doing his work and got shot.”
DelRio was shot twice on Nov. 4 while serving a search warrant on a suspected drug house. He died Nov. 7.
“Even though she’s young, I talk to my daughter about my job and the risk involved. She asks me ‘what would happen if someone hurt you?’ Pate said.
“I wanted to show her this is how our blue family comes together to show support for another officer killed in the line of duty.”
During the funeral, Pate said his daughter cried when more than a dozen bagpipers played “Amazing Grace” as an honor guard carried the casket out of the arena.
Outside the girl shook hands with police officers from around the state and took a Thin Blue Line American flag from an Ohio State Highway Patrol officer, asking if she could keep it forever.
She stood respectfully with her father during the honor service, the flag tucked into her pocket.
Pate said the photograph of his daughter has resonated in the law enforcement community at a time when some distrust the police.
“I feel like if we can show the younger generation that it’s okay to be interactive with police officers and it’s okay to want to be a police officer when you grow up, that it would change the outlook on us,” Pate said. “It starts somewhere, so why not start with her?”