Tribute to a Hero

Officer Brian Lorenzo

Jimmy Binns has honored 277 fallen police and firefighters through his Hero Plaque program since 2001. Every plaque dedication is a sad occasion, but last week’s was the toughest of them all.

Binns and members of Philadelphia’s Highway Patrol paid tribute to Officer Brian Lorenzo, the former police motorcycle instructor and Drill Team captain who was killed by an alleged drunken driver on Interstate 95 on July 8, 2012.

Hundreds of police, police recruits, relatives and friends gathered last Wednesday at the police motorcycle training course — a flat, paved parcel of land along the Delaware River commonly known as the “filter beds” because of its proximity to a city-operated water filtration plant.

The customarily articulate Binns, a trial attorney who founded the Hero Plaque program, was at a loss for words and holding back tears when he approached the podium and described himself as “a student of our beloved.”

Binns later explained that Lorenzo taught him how to ride a police-style Harley Davidson motorcycle, many of which Binns helped the department acquire through private donations. As a longtime Drill Team captain, Lorenzo helped Binns organize countless tributes to fallen officers and firefighters. Lorenzo was also the key cog in the Drill Team’s annual performances at the Hero Thrill Show, raising scholarship money for the children of fallen police and firefighters.

On top of that, Lorenzo was a regular participant in Binns’ holiday meal runs, when Highway Patrol officers deliver meals to the families of fallen police for Christmas, Thanksgiving and other special occasions.

“He was my teacher,” Binns said after the ceremony. “This is our 277th plaque dedication and he was always there for every other plaque dedication, the Hero Thrill Show and our holiday meal runs.”

Lorenzo was 48 and a 23-year veteran of the police department on July 8, 2012, when he finished a late-night shift and was riding northbound on I-95 toward his Somerton home. Just before the Cottman Avenue interchange, he saw a suspected speeder. Although officially off-the-clock, he still had on his uniform and pulled alongside the speeding car to warn the motorist. Just then, a wrong-way car struck his motorcycle head-on, killing him in an instant.

“He went out saving a life. It doesn’t get any better for a police officer,” said Binns, who is in his 70s but is taking formal police training in Delaware County with the expectation of becoming a certified officer. “If it wasn’t for ‘B-Lo,’ she would’ve been a statistic.”

“He slowed [her] down and took [her] place on the road,” Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said during the ceremony.

Lorenzo is survived by his wife, Linda, three children and a brother, Manny, who is also a police officer, among many other relatives.

“I just realized in the past year how many lives Brian touched. It’s awesome and I love it,” Linda Lorenzo said.

Manny Lorenzo noted how appropriate it was to install his brother’s plaque at the motorcycle training course, although the fatal accident site and the Highway Patrol headquarters are both miles away.

“He loved being here. This was his office,” Manny Lorenzo said. “It was the camaraderie. That’s what made him love being here.”

The plaque sits at the head of Lorenzo’s old parking spot, right in front of the Highway Patrol training office.

“This is the spot. This exemplified everything he was,” Binns said. “And the guys with the Drill Team, they will get to see it every day.”

Numerous public officials also paid their respects to Lorenzo. State Sen. Mike Stack and state Reps. Brendan Boyle and Kevin Boyle attended, as did Mayor Michael Nutter’s chief of staff, Everett Gillison, District Attorney Seth Williams and FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby.

The police academy’s latest group of trainees, Recruit Class 366, has dedicated its regimen to Lorenzo and presented one of their uniform patches to the slain officer’s family. Binns was the primary sponsor for the Lorenzo plaque. ••

Gone, but never forgotten: Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey presents the flag to Linda Lorenzo that covered her husband’s plaque. BRAD LARRISON / FOR THE TIMES

The plaque commemorating Officer Brian Lorenzo. BRAD LARRISON / FOR THE TIMES

Officers salute their fallen comrade, Officer Brian Lorenzo, who was killed in July of last year. BRAD LARRISON / FOR THE TIMES

Honoring one of their own: Fallen Officer Brian Lorenzo’s son, Dominic, is presented with a patch by cadets training in his honor during a plaque dedication last Wednesday. Lorenzo was killed by an alleged drunken driver on Interstate 95 on July 8, 2012. BRAD LARRISON / FOR THE TIMES