Feb. 20, 2007 The community for which Police Officer Ariel Anton Frett gave his life came out by the hundreds on a wet Tuesday morning to say a tearful thank-you, a final farewell and to honor Frett's 25 years of dedication and trust in serving his community.
Frett, who was killed in a shooting incident in Hospital Ground the afternoon of Feb. 8, would have celebrated 25 years in the force on Feb. 9. The 52-year-old's death came as shock to the community, and many appeared to be still experiencing that feeling on Tuesday.
The foyer of St. Andrews Episcopal Church turned into a somber sea of friends, relatives, and law enforcement officers from every local and federal agency on the island. Surrounding the body of Frett, who lay in an open casket, there was a surge of communal feeling as friends, officers, and relatives exchanged embraces, many barely holding back tears.
Among the many mourners dressed in somber colors were police officers from various units, who stood at attention dressed in bright, starched white shirts adorned with badges and yellow ascots tucked neatly inside.
Childhood friend, next-door neighbor and fellow officer Austin Duncan stood quietly amidst the group before the ceremony. "We grew up together," Duncan said, shaking his head. "We were always friends. It's very sad."
The funeral mass in the packed and suddenly silent church began at 10 a.m. with a tribute by Frett's godchild J'Verne Pickering, followed with a eulogy by his adult daughter Sommer Frett. She spoke of Frett's life, both as a police officer and as a member of the community.
She said her father was "an entrepreneur and a jack-of-all-trades. He loved music, boxing, physical fitness and dancing. A naturalist at heart, he believed in traditional Caribbean cures and herbal remedies."
And he always paid attention to staying in shape. "In 2001," Sommer Frett said, "he ran the grueling 8 Tuff Miles road race on St. John, finishing within one minute of the top competitors in his age group."
A former member of the VIPD Street Crime Unit, Frett was assigned to the Investigation Bureau, the Communications Bureau, and in 1999 the Police Training Academy on St. Thomas. ?
In 2000, Frett received a letter of commendation from academy supervisor Sgt. Barrington Thomas for his outstanding assistance with establishing the academy as a site compatible with law enforcement training standards. He reveled in his role as a training officer and looked forward to his morning runs with the police recruits, spurring them on through the streets of Sub Base, past the University of the Virgin Islands and up Black Point Hill.
Speaking before the ceremony, Sen. Celestino A. White, a former police chief, said, "You could count on him when you wanted something done, because of his character and his training. He was a great officer I knew when he was assigned to training that he had found his niche. He excelled there. I knew him well."
Along with Gov. John deJongh Jr., several other high-ranking community leaders paid their respects Tuesday. Acting Police Commissioner James McCall, who had also spoken at a viewing ceremony Monday evening at the Alexander A. Farrelly Justice Center Courtyard, said Tuesday, "Of course, it is a tragedy, but I think with the outpouring of support, it shows that we will not tolerate this."
McCall added, "The community has come forward, and I'd like to thank them for their help in solving this crime and the other three recent crimes."
Speaking at the Monday night ceremony, deJongh said, "The only thing about life that we are certain about is that one day it will end . The question becomes, 'How do we spend our time in between those days, from our birth to our end?' For Officer Frett, it is very clear to me that he enjoyed what he did."
Though Sommer Frett read the eulogy with restrained emotion, her dedication to her father in the funeral booklet is heartrending, as she tells him about "the times I will cherish forever and ever."
Frett was well loved. The memorial booklet is filled with many pages of deeply moving tributes from family, including his six children, and friends.
The rain and drizzle made an appropriate backdrop Tuesday for the solemn outpouring of love and grief. Acknowledging the melancholy sound of a steady rain falling on the church roof, the Rev. Lenroy K. Cabey reflected on the community the way it used to be, where people trusted each other.
"We were a community," he said, "we were a family. When our neighbor suffered, we suffered. We have to let people know that enough is enough." He then urged the congregation to "love your enemy."
Toward the end of the service, the priest asked the members of Frett's family to stand. He addressed their grief.
He then asked members of the police to stand, and nearly half of the church arose.
He acknowledged their loss adding, "Somebody has to put their life on the line for the safety of our people."
While family members sobbed, Frett's colleagues stood stiff at attention, hands held in a final salute as his flag-draped coffin was carried from the church. He was buried at Western Cemetery.
Officer Frett is survived by three sons, Jamal, Kai, and Elon Frett; three daughters, Jeriaha Frett-Jenkins, Sommer and Kamryn Frett; four sisters, Gretta Esannoson, Thelma Frett, Lorna Middleton and Leatrice Frett-Gumbs; five brothers, Leroy, Jacob, Harry, Mario and Orvin Frett; four grandchildren; 40 nieces and nephews; and a host of family and friends.
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