HENRICO, Va. – A memorial service was held for Virginia State Police Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates Friday. Bates was killed last Saturday when his helicopter crashed outside Charlottesville, Virginia.
Bates and Virginia State Police Pilot Lt. Jay Cullen were assigned to record aerial video during the white nationalist rally. It is believed a mechanical issue brought down the helicopter, killing both men.
Hundreds of law enforcement, around 22 divisions, from across the country traveled to Henrico to support Bates' family during this tough time. Patrols from as far as Arizona, Idaho and Connecticut were seen carrying flags and standing at attention as the family walked out of Saint Paul's Baptist Church.
Bates would have turned 41 years old last Sunday. He graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in August 2004 as a member of the 107th Basic Session. He had just transferred to the Aviation Unit as a Trooper-Pilot in July.
He is survived by his wife Amanda, son Deacon and daughter Kylee.
Texas Highway Patrol Trooper Gus Nunez first met Bates when he graduated from the Virginia State Police academy in 2012.
"He loved what he did and he was a good person," Nunez remembered. "If you're feeling down Berke definitely cheered you up. He was always laughing and making jokes."
Governor Terry McAuliffe spoke fondly of Bates, who was someone he and his family came to know intimately while Bates served on his security detail.
McAuliffe told a story about how Bates took his daughter to her first day at high school, and how she wanted to remain incognito. But Bates had another idea. When they pulled up to the school, he turned on the intercom and said “Sally McAulliffe has arrived.”
It was this humor that speaker and after addressed, each sharing their own special memory of Bates, who started his career in the Florida Highway Patrol.
Others who didn’t know Bates still felt connected. One Captain remarked that he has attended an estimated 100 funerals all across the country. He cited an unbreakable brotherhood between men and women who wear the badge.
"Once you're a trooper it doesn't matter where you go," Nunez said. "Especially when you graduate from Virginia State Police, they will always be my family here."
First Sergeant Chris Clark with Virginia State Police said that the day Bates crashed, he filmed the moment that accused driver James Fields drove into a crowd in Charlottesville and killed Heather Heyer.
“He captured that pursuit that is great evidence that is going to be used at some point in time. We were able to catch the murderer because of the work Berke was doing,” Clark said.
After the bagpipes played Amazing Grace, and the governor gave Bates’ wife a flag, helicopters began to pass by in honor. Eight helicopters flew past; some from New York and New Jersey Police Departments and some from MEDVAC departments in Maryland and Virginia.
Lt. Cullen's funeral is scheduled for Saturday. A VSP spokesperson said that the funerals were scheduled back to back to allow traveling law enforcement a chance to attend both.
The interment for Bates was a private graveside service.
The funeral service can be seen here.