Officer Kevin Ambrose was known among Springfield policemen for his uncanny ability to put everyone in a room at ease: His dry humor and easygoing approach made him the perfect agent to cut tension in a heated situation.
“As bad a mood as you could be in, you’d always forget about it when Kevin walked into the room,” said Ambrose’s longtime colleague and friend, Springfield Detective Kevin Burnham.
Planning to retire in just a year, Ambrose, 56, was shot and killed in the line of duty Monday afternoon while responding to a domestic call between Shawn Bryan, 35, a New York correctional officer, and his former girlfriend, Charlene Mitchell, 29.
According to police, Bryan shot Ambrose and Mitchell, then shot and killed himself. Mitchell remained hospitalized Tuesday night.
Sergeant John Delaney, a Springfield police spokesman, said Ambrose had been in a one-man cruiser in the Sixteen Acres area of Springfield, a typical assignment in what is considered a quiet neighborhood. He did not wait for backup because he was not responding to a domestic violence call, Delaney said; the call was supposed to be more routine.
‘For him, it wasn’t just about the badge. It was about something more.’
According to police, Ambrose responded to a call to enforce a restraining order on Lawton Street. He was supposed to escort Bryan into the apartment as he retrieved a few of his possessions.
When Ambrose arrived, Bryan and Mitchell were waiting outside.
But once they reached the top of the stairs to the apartment, Bryan allegedly pushed Mitchell inside and slammed the door. As Ambrose tried to push his way in, Bryan shot through the door, hitting Ambrose in the shoulder. Then, Bryan opened the door and shot Ambrose in the face, police said.
Even in the twilight of his career and after years as a burglary detective, Ambrose had little desire for a desk job, colleagues said, because he was a patrolman at heart. He liked being out on the streets, meeting new people and seeing new things. And most of all, they said, he liked to help others.
“He loved doing what he was doing,” said Rich Taylor, building manager for Springfield police. “For him, it wasn’t just about the badge. It was about something more.”
Ambrose had planned to retire next year, telling Burnham that he looked forward to spending more time with his family, especially his elderly father and his granddaughter.
“He said he was going to walk around with his dad, because he could catch him, and with Victoria [his granddaughter], even though he couldn’t catch her,” Burnham recalled Tuesday.
Ambrose’s sense of humor and quick one-liners were legendary within the Springfield Police Department, where he often greeted officers with a jolly jab about their age, urging them to retire from the force.
“He had a way of coming out with a comment out of nowhere that would be like a bolt of lightning in the discussion,” said Officer Roger Landry.
Taylor, the building manager, recalled that he, Ambrose, and other Springfield police officers once attended an event where a former Springfield mayor was speaking at considerable length. As the speech wore on and the audience began to fidget and sigh, Ambrose piped up: “You done yet?” Eliciting chuckles from the crowd and the mayor, he continued, “We’ve got things to do!”
“He’d be teasing you, but he had a funny way of saying it that you’d never get mad at him,” Taylor said.
Burnham met Ambrose when he was a cadet. He was a jokester back then, Burnham recalled, though perhaps a little more bawdy. Later, the two lived two houses away from one another in Wilbraham.
When, about a decade ago, Burnham arrived home with a moving truck, Ambrose and his son Kyle stopped tossing their baseball and within minutes came over to ask if Burnham needed help.
Ambrose, whose family did not want to talk to the media, attended Springfield’s Technical High School, where he played soccer and baseball. Those skills came in handy when he began coaching his son’s sports teams. He was a determined coach, Burnham said, scheduling four practices a week, but also paying out-of-pocket to ensure that the teams had a raucous end-of-season party.
Ambrose’s wake will be held Thursday from 2 to 7 p.m. at Sampson Chapel of the Acres in Springfield. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Catherine of Siena Church, with a procession of law enforcement officers to Hillcrest Park Cemetery afterward.
On Wednesday, Taylor said he could not help but think about the police scanner in the moments after Ambrose arrived at the domestic call Monday. Other officers heard a struggle, then silence. A supervisor got on the radio, requesting that other officers keep the line clear, waiting for a response from Ambrose as the radio dispatcher called his number over and over, receiving no answer.