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One year since Virginia State Trooper Chad Dermyer’s end of watch

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RICHMOND, Va. – One year has passed since Virginia State Trooper Chad P. Dermyer was murdered during a training exercise at the Richmond Greyhound Bus Station, by a man with a violent past who shot Dermyer at point blank range, multiple times.

Trooper Dermyer was at the bus station on Boulevard with 16 troopers, special agents and supervisors as part of a specialized training on criminal interdiction practices, a method of proactive policing where officers engage citizens and hone skills to detect criminal activity.

Surveillance video from within the bus station showed  Greyhound Bus Station James Brown III, 34, of Aurora, Illinois, initially seated in the terminal’s restaurant.

When Trooper Dermyer began walking through the terminal, Brown walked out of the restaurant and into the restroom, according to a state police release.  Brown exited the bathroom and Dermyer engaged him in a brief conversation as Brown walked towards the front entrance of the station.

It was approximately 2:40 p.m. on March 31, 2016.

Virginia State Trooper Chad P. Dermyer

Brown turned away from Dermyer and pulled out from the waist of his pants a Beretta 40-caliber, semi-automatic handgun. He turned back around and began shooting at the trooper; they were within arm’s reach of one another.

Two troopers nearby in plain clothes returned fire at Brown; he was transported to VCU Medical Center where he died.

Two women suffered non-life threatening injuries after being struck by bullets during the gunfire exchange.

CBS 6 Reporter Mark Holmberg, who has covered countless crime stories in the community for 30 years, was driving past on his way to work.

“The sirens were coming from so many directions, it sounded like they were inside my head as I turned onto Robin Hood Road,” Holmberg described. He parked and ran over to the station, as bus travelers fled the station and police “streamed onto the scene like hornets.”

He wasn’t sure if it was an “active shooter, terror attack, mass casualties, children. ... Good Lord.”

Though the name of the shooter wasn’t released until the next day, CBS 6 producer Mike Bergazzi and Holmberg started digging. By 9 p.m., they learned a lot about 34-year-old James Brown III of Aurora, Ill.

With a lengthy violent record, they wondered how he was out on the streets, and police questioned how Brown was able to get a hold of a gun.

“It's unfortunate he was able to get a gun, based on his history,” said Virginia State Police Superintendent Colonel W. Steven Flaherty.

Brown’s aunt explained that “he always liked the criminal side.” She was upset to hear the tragic news, but not surprised, she told Holmberg.

“He had a lot of anger about the police in the past,” she said. “He pretty much thought he wanted to be infamous ... in terms of having a showdown. He always praised those people who got into shootouts with police.”

She also said that her nephew vowed that his prison days were over.

“He said he would never go back to prison again,” she said. “He would fight it out with them.”

The two men were different in almost every way.

Flaherty praised Dermyer’s work as a law enforcement officer and with the State Police.

Chad Dermyer funeral

He said that Dermyer proved every day, on duty and off duty, that he had what it takes to be in law enforcement.

“He had integrity, fortitude, character, and lord knows, he had compassion for other people,” Flaherty said.

He also said that Dermyer has a sixth sense, the power of observation, a skill which tragically led to him paying the ultimate price.

“Chad was doing what Chad loved to do,” and “was at his absolute best” that fatal Thursday, Flaherty said.

Dermyer is survived by his wife and two children.

Trooper Dermyer and family

Last Christmas, Dermyer’s father left a special message of thanks to law enforcement, using billboards.

He wanted to express his gratitude to law enforcement in his native Kansas City, so he contacted Lamar Outdoor Advertising to ask about buying a billboard message.

Lamar then offered to put up four digital billboards for free.

The billboards read:

The Dermyer family would like to thank you for what you do every day. In loving memory of Virginia State Trooper Chad Phillip Dermyer, End of Watch, March 31, 2016.

There were a record number of law enforcement fatalities nationwide in 2016, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. There was a significant spike, the agency said, in the number of officers who were shot and killed – Dermyer was one of 64 who died in a firearm-related incident.