By Brittany Tressler and James Boyle
On Sept. 13, 2012, Plymouth Township Police Officer Bradley Michael Fox, of New Hanover, responded to the scene of a hit-and-run at Conshohocken and Ernest Station roads around 6 p.m. with his K-9 partner, Nick.
Andrew Charles Thomas ambushed the duo, according to District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, shooting and killing Fox, injuring Nick, and finally turning the gun on himself.
The violence that took the life of Fox just one day shy of his 35th birthday, reverberates in the community a year later.
Immediately following Fox’s death, Plymouth Township Police Chief Joseph Lawrence and Ferman addressed the media at the hospital.
"There are just no words that can begin to express the magnitude of this tragedy," said Ferman. "I think we're all in shock."
The shock continued at Fox’s funeral on Sept. 19 as hundreds of law enforcement officers from across the country attended. Many participated in a ride on Sept. 17 through Plymouth Township, with American flags and signs lining the streets of the ride.
In the months following Fox’s death, Lawrence, joined by Plymouth Township officials, visited all of the monthly meetings of local municipalities that offered help to the township in the days following Fox’s death—from Horsham, to Upper Moreland, Collegeville to Ambler and beyond—thanking the police force for the support.
While the law enforcement community continued to honor Fox with awards and tributes, the community also gathered around the Fox family; Brad’s pregnant wife Lynsay and their daughter, Cadence.
In Fox's hometown of Warminster, the owners of the tavern where he met his wife in 2005 have created a memorial on one of its walls. Across from the bar, next to the big screen television, a section of wall space has been adorned with an American flag that Fox received while stationed at Camp Fallujah in Iraq during his second tour of duty with the Marine Corps. Below that hangs a certificate noting the flag's authenticity, flanked by two photos of Fox in Iraq.
"We were devastated when we heard what happened," said Bob Kenney, owner of Kenney's Madison Tavern. "He was such an outgoing guy. If you were his friend, you were his friend forever."
Fox's parents, wife and K-9, Nick, were named grand marshals of Warminster's Memorial Day parade in May. The family received a warm reception as they walked through town.
Immediately following Fox’s death, community organizations rallied around the Fox family, scheduling hundreds of fundraisers – from bake sales and frozen yogurt benefits during the first week, to golf outings and beef and beers within a month of the tragedy.
Over the past year, unique events have been held in honor of Fox, including the ‘Brad Fox ‘Stache Bash,’ during which law enforcement officials from the area grew in “creative” mustaches over the month of April, and held a big party to celebrate Fox’s life, and judge the facial hair, on May 10.
“In keeping with a sense of humor that Brad would surely appreciate, participating officers will channel their inner Tom Selleck and grow a mustache for 40 days,” according to creators.
The community has also watched the Fox family grow over the past year. On May 6, the Plymouth Township Police Department and the Fox family announced that Lynsay Fox gave birth to Bradley Michael Fox, Jr.
The family also increased by one four-legged friend. Plymouth Township was able to cut through some governmental red tape with the help of the Montgomery County Commissioners, K-9 Nick was permitted to retire from the force, and was given to the Fox family.
"He's where he belongs," said Lynsay Fox at the presentation.
Nick has been replaced on the force, thanks to a $20,000 donation from Conicelli Toyota of Plymouth Township to purchase and train a new K-9.
In August, K-9 Fox was introduced to the community by the Plymouth Township Police Department.
While Fox’s death had a lasting effect on the community, his legacy as a hero went far beyond Plymouth Township when President Barack Obama shared Fox’s story during his speech at the National Peace Officers Memorial Day services at the U.S. Capitol in May.
"Nothing will replace the enthusiasm he brought to his job or the tremendous pride he had in his family, but today, Brad's wife, Lynsay, daughter Cadence and baby Brad Jr. have a living reminder of their fallen hero. That's Brad's canine partner, a trusted shepherd named Nick, who Lynsay adopted into the family when he retired from the force last fall," Obama said during the ceremony.
On a statewide level, the Brad Fox Law was signed by Gov. Tom Corbett in January.
Thomas, a felon, was unable to purchase the gun that killed Fox. Michael Joseph Henry, of Philadelphia, was sentenced to 20 to 66 years in prison last month after pleading guilty to selling Thomas the gun illegally.
The Brad Fox Law, sponsored by State Rep. Marcy Toepel (R-147), restores a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for individuals who are convicted a second time of "straw purchasing" guns, legally buying guns and selling them illegally to felons.
"[Officer Fox] died at the hands of a felon – somebody who never should have had a firearm. But he also died because somebody bought a gun legally, and sold it to [the killer] illegally," said Corbett at the ceremonial signing of the law in Plymouth Township.
Fox’s impact on the community continues a year after his death. Earlier this month, Norristown hosted the inaugural 9/11 Heroes Run to honor the memory of Brad Fox and Travis Manion.
On Friday, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman will dedicate a plaque to Fox at the Schuylkill River Trail at the intersection of Conshohocken and Ernest roads as part of the Montgomery County Hero Cops Program.
On Sept. 21, the Hogs and Heroes Foundation will hold its second annual benefit concert for the Fox family. On the same day, 500 to 700 bikers will ride through Easton to honor Fox. For more on upcoming fundraisers, visit RIP Officer Brad Fox on Facebook or the Officer Brad Fox webpage.
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