Who Was Berke M.M. Bates? Charlottesville Protests Are Linked To A Helicopter Crash
The violence in Charlottesville on Saturday turned deadly after a car mowed down counter-protestors, killing at least one person. Near the site of the protests in Albemarle County, two state troopers died after the crash of a police helicopter, reportedly part of law enforcement efforts to monitor the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Berke M.M. Bates was one of the Virginia state troopers who reportedly died at the scene; he would have turned 41 years old on Sunday.
Bates, who was from Quinton, Virginia, died alongside Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, in the crash. According to WTVR, Bates had transferred to the Aviation Unit as a Trooper-Pilot only last month. He reportedly graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in August 2004.
Susan Rowland, the Virginia State Police Public Relations Coordinator, told WTVR on Saturday night that the helicopter crashed into a wooded area near a home in Albemarle County slightly before 5 p.m. According to the Associated Press, the police confirmed that the helicopter was assisting law enforcement officers tracking the protest in Charlottesville.
Bates and Cullen's deaths came hours after a car plowed into a group of people at the protest. The "Unite The Right" rally on Saturday had drawn scores of white supremacists to Charlottesville, many of whom donned Nazi regalia and carried firearms.
Bates had been with the Virginia State Police for 13 years and is survived by his wife and twin son and daughter. Virginia law enforcement expressed their deep condolences to the families of Bates and Cullen.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe and first lady Dorothy McAuliffe said in a statement:
We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jay and Berke, both of whom were our close friends and trusted members of our team. Jay has flown us across the commonwealth for more than three and a half years. Berke was devoted to our entire family as part of our Executive Protective Unit team for the past three years.
This is a devastating loss for their families, the Virginia State Police, and the entire commonwealth. Out hearts go out to their wives and children, and we stand by to support them during this difficult time. These heroes were a part of our family and we are simply heartbroken.
The Officer Down Memorial Page lists the following contact for those looking to send condolences or find out more information about funeral arrangements:
Colonel W. Steven Flaherty
Virginia State Police
7700 Midlothian Turnpike
North Chesterfield, VA 23235
Phone: (804) 674-2843
According to Richmond, Virginia, station WTVR, state police have said that there's "no indication of foul play being a factor in the crash" and that an investigation is underway.