"Brad Fox is a hero."
That simple statement bookended Plymouth Township Police Chief Joseph Lawrence's address to the media Thursday night, as he stood in the suddenly cool night air just a few hundred yards from where Officer Bradley Fox was killed in the line of duty.
"Brad was with [the department] for seven years, and just recently graduated the Philadelphia K-9 school with his partner, Nick," said Lawrence, adding that Fox is survived by an expectant wife and young daughter. "This was a senseless, senseless act."
Details are still scarce about how Officer Fox lost his life. Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman said that Fox and his canine partner, Nick, responded to a hit and run accident near the intersection of Conshohocken and Ernest Station Roads at about 6 p.m.
After arriving, both were shot. While Nick survived, Officer Fox, who was shot in the head, did not.
Police said that a suspect was also killed near the scene, and that they believed he acted alone. Details of the suspect's death were not made available Thursday night, as Ferman said the investigation is ongoing.
"There are just no words that can begin to express the magnitude of this tragedy," said Ferman. "I think we're all in shock."
Ferman said that Fox is former United States Marine and served two tours of duty in Iraq.
"This was a man who served two tours of duty…and when he volunteered to go back for the second one he didn't even tell his family," Ferman said.
Ferman added that Fox would have been 35 on Friday, and is the first Plymouth Police Officer to ever lose his life in the line of duty.
At the hospital
Before speaking to the press in Plymouth Township, Lawrence and Ferman joined officers from departments across Montgomery County and family members at Montgomery Hospital in Norristown, where Fox was taken. Camera crews and media personalities kept their distance, stationing themselves across from the hospital on north side of Fornance Street.
As the hour grew later, the crowds grew larger and rumors of the officer's identity and the fate of the suspect who allegedly took his life circulated through the onlookers. The friends and family of Officer Fox continued to gather in the front of the doors of the emergency room entrance, protected by an unmoving wall of police officers.
Soon a procession of police motorcycles, lights blazing and flags flying, arrived and stood in wait to accompany Officer Fox's body as it left the hospital. Dozens of law enforcement personnel lined the sidewalk outside the emergency room entrance, saluting as the body of the slain officer was ushered into a county vehicle and taken from the hospital. Many residents who had come to see the officer escorted away held their hands to the hearts, some with tears in their eyes, as they watched the procession.
Supporters gather online
A Facebook page "RIP Officer Brad Fox" was quickly launched, gathering over 8,000 followers by midnight. Hundreds of comments streamed in from supporters.
"Words cannot express the sorrow I am feeling for the Fox family," wrote one woman, who said that her brother is a Plymouth Police Officer. "This whole tragedy hits so close to home for us. I will pray for Officer Fox's family and the other members of the Plymouth Township Police Department."
Another woman said that she recalled meeting Fox's wife while she was a student at Temple University, and the two shared classes together as Fox served overseas.
"She had his picture with her and was so proud of him, as she should be," the woman wrote. "I remember how excited she was when they got engaged. You could tell they shared forever love."
Law enforcement members from across the country added their support. A number of webpages, including an "Officer Down Memorial Page," attracted officers from as far away as Georgia and California.
And no doubt, that support will grow exponentially in the days and weeks ahead, and more stories of Officer Fox will come to light, along with details about just what happened Thursday night.
But for now, there's one thing that's already known:
"Brad Fox is a hero."
[Fund for the family of Officer Brad Fox: Fox Children's Fund; C/O Continental Bank; 661 W. Germantown Pike; Plymouth Meeting. M-Th 9-5, Fri 9-6]