DALLAS — Lorne Ahrens was a big, bald cop with a wicked sense of humor.
He had a crooked smile no one could forget.
“You know this is the guy we called, ‘Meat,'" said his friend, Sr. Cpl. Jaime Castro. "A big guy, invincible."
He and those that knew the 48-year-old senior corporal still can't believe someone so tough and physically imposing is gone. He was killed in an ambush-style attack Thursday night in downtown along with three other Dallas officers, Patricio Zamarripa, Michael Krol, and Sgt. Michael Smith. A DART officer, Brent Thompson, was also killed.
“The minute I walked in (to the hospital) and they said, ‘Ahrens,' I was like it can't be him,” Castro said.
Ahrens underwent surgery. Those that know him thought if anybody could survive being shot multiple times with an assault weapon it was Ahrens.
“You just didn’t think anything could happen to him,” said Ron Pinkston, president of the Dallas Police Association.
Castro has known Ahrens since his rookie days in the early 2000s. He says he'll never the forget a moment that gave him the measure of the man Ahrens was.
They were about to make a drug bust.
“He puts his hand on my shoulder and he said, ‘I got your back brother,’’’ Castro said. “He said, ‘Don't worry about it. I'm willing to take a bullet for you, man’ And at that moment I knew he got it. He understood what the job entailed. He understood the reality.”
Ahrens was a family man. He was married to fellow police officer, Detective Katrina Ahrens. They had two children.
“He loved showing the videos of his kids,” he said. “Every time I saw him he bragged about his kids and how happy he was.”
Ahrens was a robbery detective up until a couple of years ago. He was known as a dogged investigator who never gave up.
Sgt. Mike Mata, of the Dallas Police Association, was at the hospital and spoke with his wife.
“She's having a real hard time, and understandably so because we thought he was going to make it,” Mata said.
Mata says Ahrens would hate all the fuss being made about him.
“He’d probably want us to talk and worry about the other officers that passed away and the other officers that ran toward gunfire,” Mata said. “That’s the kind of officer he was, the kind of person he was.”
I asked Castro how would Ahrens want to be remembered.
He responded, “By continuing to work. Keep working. He always wanted to work. Through the good, through the bad. He was always willing to work.”
- Officer Patrick Zamarripa, 32, was a Fort Worth native and veteran of the Iraq War. Friends describe him as an eager young officer with an ever present smile. He and his girlfriend had a little girl. His father, Rick Zamarripa, told the Star-Telegram he watched as the attack played out on live television. He was worried because he knew his son was working on bike patrol. He tried but couldn’t reach his son. His son was already dead by the time he reached the hospital. “He loved his job,” his father told the Star-Telegram.
- Michael Krol 40, was a Detroit native and a former correctional officer before he joined the force in 2007. His mother, Susan Ehlke told WXYZ-TV in Detroit that he was “living a dream of being a police officer.” “[He] Just turned 40 in April,” Ehlke said. “He knew the danger of the job but he never shied away from his duty as a police officer. He was a great caring person and wanted to help people. A wonderful son, brother, uncle, nephew and friend."
- Sgt. Michael Smith, 55, was a former Army Ranger who joined the department 27 years ago. He was planning to retire within the next year. Smith was a father of two. People who know him say he was the kind of leader who led from the front lines – just like the way he died. “He was an amazing supervisor and his troops loved him,” Mata said. “He didn’t lead from behind a desk or a squad car. He got out to help and to do the job that he asked officers to do for him.”
With the passing of Zamarripa, Krol, Smith, and Ahrens, four new pictures will be added to a wall commemorating the Dallas officers who’ve died in the line of duty.
“Until yesterday, we’d only lost 80,” said Pinkston, his voice cracking with emotion.
A fund to assist the families of the killed officers has been set up. Go here to donate.