Pittsburgh native and lifetime Pirates baseball fan Michael Vater drove to Bradenton from his home in Boca Raton on Sunday to see a 1 p.m. baseball game at McKechnie Field.
He discovered his ticket to see the Bradenton Marauders play the Brevard County Manatees supported the families of the five fallen Texas police officers who were shot to death Thursday.
The Marauders donated $2 from every ticket to the families of the officers. Additional donations to the Assist the Officer Foundation of Dallas were accepted at the box office, the team merchandise store and the guest relations booth, and were raised at other game events.
“I was really upset and horrified,” Vater said of the shootings. “I realized that those officers are essential to our society and keeping everything orderly and calm.”
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Vater paused for a moment when asked what he thought the solution could be to fixing the problems that have led to these shootings, “Well, I would make it so there is greater respect for the law enforcement by all citizens. I would make sure people understand how important it is in our society to have law and order.
“I think a lot of it goes into a dialogue and having communities get engaged and making sure people know that the police officers are people in the community themselves and they have a vested interest in making sure their community is safe and secure,” Vater added.
The officers were killed during an ambush after a peaceful protest in Dallas. The protest was a response to the recent deaths of Alton Sterling of Louisiana and Philando Castile of Minnesota, both of whom were killed by police officers.
Sunday was actually the Marauders’ annual Public Safety and Family Fun Day.
Several public safety organizations, like the Florida Highway Patrol, Bradenton Police Department, Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue, Drug Free Manatee and the West Bradenton Crime Watch had representatives at the game. Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County gave out free reading materials under the stands.
“It was very glum,” Sgt. Phil Waller of the Bradenton Police Department said of the shootings. “I woke up Friday and saw the news and was depressed all day about it.”
“I’m sure there is a solution to all of this but I can’t tell you the answer,” said Waller, who showed children the department’s SWAT truck at the game.
“It was a reckless, careless act,” said super Marauders fan Mike Sullivan, who is from Sarasota and has attended every Marauders home game in the team history. “It will take years to correct any bias between races, but it should be done peacefully. That can be effective.”
Tami Goudy, who is running for the Bradenton City Council in Ward 1, was at the game with the West Bradenton Crime Watch. She partners with the Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach police departments, bringing safety education to the residents.
“I was very sad Friday, concerned for my friends in the PD,” Goudy said of the shooting.
Goudy did not take more than a second to answer when asked what needs to be done in the wake of the shootings.
“We need to support our police departments,” Goudy said. “They put on their badges and their uniforms every single day to support us and protect us every single day, something that most of us would not do.”
For more information about the Assist the Officer Foundation of Dallas, visit atodallas.org.