Hometown hero: remembering Officer Cody Brotherson
Dec 08, 2016 11:48AM
By Travis Barton
West Valley City Police Officer Cody Brotherson died in the line of duty on Nov. 6. His patrol car was placed at Fairbourne Station to serve as a memorial where the community honored him with flowers, candles and well-wishes. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
By Travis Barton | [email protected]
His wit was unique, his cooking unbelievable
and his protection was passionate. These were but a few ways friends and family
used to describe Cody Brotherson.
“I will never have enough words or time to describe all that you [Cody] have done for me,” said his younger brother, Brayden Brotherson during Cody’s funeral on Nov. 14 at the Maverik Center.
West Valley City Police Officer Cody Brotherson died in the line of duty on Nov. 6 while attempting to put down tire spikes to stop a stolen car. He was WVC’s first officer to die in the line of duty. In the weeks since, a family and a community have come to remember and honor the man behind the police badge.
A Family Man
Cody was known to most as a police officer, but before putting on the badge he was remembered as a son to Jeff and Jenny, an older brother to Alex and Brayden and fiancé to Jessica Le.
His family said he was extremely protective of his family, especially his two brothers.
“He wanted to protect his family first and Cody is so fiercely protective of his two brothers,” his mother Jenny would say during his eulogy how Cody had “promised from heaven to hell he would follow” his brothers.
Cody taught Brayden how to climb trees, and defend himself. His parents said Cody would watch over them no matter how old he was. Jenny recalled a 10-year-old Cody at the mall quietly “recommending” a bully return the skee-balls they stole from Alex and that the bully “walk away as fast as [he] can.”
Cody’s vigilance continued throughout their lives from Cody giving Alex’s classmates a warning speech to not mock him to helping a dispute between Brayden and his girlfriend’s family.
“All the best qualities I have are the ones you have gifted me,” Brayden said during the funeral.
The women in his life also received the same level of protective treatment. Jenny said for Christmas one year, he gave them professional police mace. “He thought he was so brilliant for giving us mace,” Jenny said and added that she didn’t like guns.
Le said Cody would run her through firearm drills unloading and loading the gun, properly clearing corners and then time her while he pretended to be breaking in.
“I never made it to where he wanted me to be,” Le said.
His uncle, Darren Richards, said the family was so proud of the man Cody became. “He was the most loyal, brave and loving person we’ve ever known,” Richards said at Cody’s viewing.
Those qualities not only made him a good police officer, but a good fiancé as well. Cody and Jessica were together for two and a half years before his death. Le said they adopted a dog, bought a house and built a life together. A life that included recapping the events of his shifts over a drink and telling her he loved her.
“We loved each other with our entire souls and my heart is absolutely shattered not having him here with me,” Le said during the funeral.
Cooking and Cars
Jenny said Cody was very independent from the time he was a boy. Whether it was working on cars he loved so much with his dad or learning how to cook because he couldn’t wait for his parents to get home from work.
As a teenager he would do doughnuts in his Mitsubishi Eclipse and would sometimes get pulled over for speeding. “He didn’t know how to go slower than 100 miles per hour,” Jenny said.
She would later discover, much to her dismay, videos of Cody on his bullet bike standing up or riding wheelies.
Cody’s famous cooking ability would rear its culinary head at a young age. It began with ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese before that passion would grow while working the cafeteria at Intermountain Healthcare.
Cody needed no kitchen to provide gourmet meals for those he loved. His family recalled when the power was out at Cody and Le’s Weber County home after the tornado hit in September, he used a camper stove to make schnitzel, vegetables and garlic roasted mashed potatoes.
“He could turn a can of SpaghettiOs and a ham sandwich into a five-course meal. I don’t know how he did it, he was unbelievable,” his dad said and he added that Cody believed he could win the reality TV show, “Chopped”.
If he had been a contestant on the show, Cody’s predilection for the presentation of his food would fit in well. Family members said his meals had to be beautifully presented. He taught them how to properly drizzle gravy, arrange the veggie platter to look like a shark, and surrounded the Thanksgiving turkey with lemons and tomatoes cut to resemble roses.
His love of food meant he was willing to swim out into a cold lake at scout camp to retrieve a lost egg carton so his fellow scouts could enjoy pancakes and eggs.
“That kid and his food...” Jenny remembered fondly.
Mustaches and Movies
His family said Cody loved to say movies were loosely based off his life and would fill his car with vaping smoke. But it was the new addition to his face that stuck out in people’s minds.
“How does Wilson look today?” It was a morning ritual he asked Le everyday about his growing mustache— something he cared for meticulously by combing it with his old toothbrush and cleaning it using Le’s conditioner (suggested by Jeff as way to make it thicker).
Inspired by the movie “Cast Away,” Cody began growing his mustache as a challenge with other police officers (one named his mustache Bilson). Le said Cody rationalized it to her by saying whoever grew the best won a $50-100 pot. She later found out it was only $5-10.
“He’s the kind of person where if you challenged him, he was going through with it,” Le said.
Added Jenny, “He didn’t care how dorky he looked, he was winning that competition…he looked like a little boy trying to grow a man’s mustache.”
Though “Wilson” may have annoyed members of his family, it had become a part of who he was.
“When we finally got to see Cody that first night [after he was hit], for as much as I hated that mustache, it was so good to see it because it was one little small piece of him that still looked like him,” Jenny said.
Love of People, Love of Police
From age five, Cody wanted to be a police officer. Richards said whenever they entered a toy store he wanted to buy handcuffs.
“He was always playing with them and we had all been arrested several times. Back then, he knew and we always knew that he would become a policeman,” Richards said.
His natural affinity for protecting started very young, Jenny said.
“When he was little he wanted to right the wrongs of the world. He always wanted to protect the innocent,” Jenny recalled.
It began with a sash as a safety patrol officer at Robert Frost Elementary and evolved into a badge as a police officer. Family members said he fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming an officer in his hometown.
“Cody had so many choices of where to work but he was very set on working in West Valley,” Jenny said.
“When Cody put on his uniform, he took pride in it,” said Cody’s close friend Joseph Fedak. “He was an officer in the city that he loved, the city he grew up in and I believe that’s where the pride came in.”
His dad said Cody treated everyone with equal fairness regardless of who they were—criminals or not. Jeff remembered how Cody saved his neighbors from a kitchen fire when living in a townhome.
“He heard screaming, went outside saw all these people run out of the house and he rushed over there and put out the fire and took the kid out of the house. He saved their house and their little boy,” Jeff said.
Officer Austin Kimball was with Cody on his last shift. He recalled how he told a homeless man in a park to sleep there for the night and leave in the morning. He then gave the man some Halloween candy from his patrol car, apologizing for not having any soup.
West Valley City Police Chief Lee Russo said hearing these stories were welcoming and enlightening, giving him “an even greater sense of what kind of police officer, and more importantly, what kind of man he was.”
Jenny said, “I’m a mom so I’m supposed to be proud but there were just so many things he did to take it to the next level.”
Bringing a Community Together
Cody’s legacy has already extended beyond the confines of his family and Weber County home. Thousands attended his funeral with law enforcement from across the country participating in the processional motorcade from the Maverik Center to Valley View Mortuary at 4335 W 4100 S.
“Despite the grief and the anguish and raw feeling, it’s helped a community come together,” Russo said.
Fundraisers at Valley Fair Mall and Café Rio were started to raise money for the Brotherson family and a scholarship was started in his name. Friends and family noted the countless interactions people reported having with Cody whether on a domestic disturbance call or his help with a flat tire.
“There’s no words that can adequately describe what that does for me to know in his very short life and short time as an officer how many people he truly helped,” Jenny said.
The family said the public displays of support have been amazing.
“It’s renewed my faith in man, when the accident happened. I was angry, at first I was destroyed, hurt, shattered,” Jeff said. “Then we went on a ride and saw all the people that showed up and all the love and help and support. It really helped, you see there’s more good than bad.”
At times over the years, Jenny said the family considered moving, but now she can’t imagine leaving.
“There will never be enough ways to thank the community for what they’ve done for us, in sharing with our grief at this horrible, horrible time,” she said.
Jenny said he was their hero, protector and an essential piece of their family.
“I will absolutely not allow this boy to be forgotten,” Jenny said.