Dedicated To Our Friend

 

 

From our first annual event in 2002, Joe Pokorny contacted the BRAVE Riders, offering to coordinate the ride escort, courtesy of the PA State Police Motors.  He also strongly supported this effort by his personal participation as well as encouraging others to attend. 

He once told us that one of the things he looked forward to at this event was catching up with people he may not have seen for a while; it was an opportunity to stay in touch. 

Beginning with the second annual memorial event, the BRAVE Riders extended the opportunity to anyone participating, to ride In Memory Of their loved one, coworker or friend who had become their Fallen Hero as a result of a Line Of Duty Death.

It is with honor, appreciation and deep sorrow that the BRAVE Riders dedicated the 2006 annual event In Memory Of … the life and sacrifice of our friend Poke, EOW 12-12-05.

 

Fallen … Not Forgotten!

 


 

 On Behalf of Joe's Family

Thank You …

Many thanks and much appreciation to those of you who participate in and support the Ride To Remember, honoring and remembering those who have given their lives in the line of duty … particularly our son, Cpl. Joseph R. Pokorny.

Joe was a loving son and brother, devoted dad and friend; a man recognized and admired for his loyalty, dedication and bravery.  Joe was enthusiastic and passionate about life.  He personified integrity and represented the character of a hero; never looking for acknowledgment.  He is truly someone to look up to and imitate.

Words could never describe the depth of our pain, or immeasurable loss; nor can the emptiness be filled or the tragedy of his death understood.  However, the memory of our son will live on and he will always be remembered.

It is with heartfelt appreciation that we say “Thank You” for joining with us in honor, recognition and appreciation of his service to our community, but more importantly to his memory; he will never be forgotten!

Thank you

The Pokorny Family

 


 

Slain trooper 'a real Pittsburgh guy'

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

By Michael A. Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As a patrol unit supervisor, State Police Cpl. Joseph R. Pokorny could have stayed in the safe confines of Troop B's Moon station early yesterday instead of venturing into the unknown where no traffic stop, no encounter with a stranger is routine.

But Cpl. Pokorny, 45, was the kind of trooper who preferred the action of a steady midnight shift, the kind who loved to patrol just like the troopers he supervised.

That's why early yesterday he grabbed a set of car keys and headed out to the work he enjoyed -- and to the fate that awaited him. About two hours later, near the Carnegie exit of the Parkway West, the 22-year veteran and father of two teenagers was gunned down in the line of duty.

To those who knew and loved Cpl. Pokorny, there didn't seem to be enough superlatives to describe the trooper, the man, the father, the son, the brother, the friend, the neighbor.

"He was a great cop, a great guy," said Cpl. Ken Yuhas, his longtime friend, former partner and fellow supervisor in the Moon station. "He lived for his kids, he lived for the job.

"He'd rather be out with the guys instead of sitting on station and collecting reports. He was all about being a street cop. He just lived it. He loved working with the guys, loved taking care of the guys."

Indeed, Cpl. Pokorny recently was credited with saving another trooper when he used his police cruiser to ram and stop a suspect's car that had been driving head-on toward the other state trooper's vehicle on the Center exit of the Parkway West. He received a commendation for his quick-thinking and courageous action.

Yesterday, Cpl. Yuhas was among many troopers who went to the Center Township home of Cpl. Pokorny's parents, Joseph Sr. and Florence, to offer family members sympathy and support.

There, Frank Pokorny of Hanover remembered his brother, older by three years, as a good man who was intelligent, athletic, compassionate and dedicated to his job, his two children and his fellow man.

"He was extremely well-respected as a state trooper and was extremely well-liked. He did not have an enemy," recalled Mr. Pokorny, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1985 and 1986 and was known as "Fearless Frank" for his aggressiveness on special teams.

"His kids were his No. 1 priority," Mr. Pokorny said. "He cared about other people; he was more concerned about other people than himself."

No one else in the family, originally from Uniontown, has a law enforcement background, and Mr. Pokorny didn't recall his brother ever saying he saw that as his calling when the brothers and a sister, Laura Hill, of Center, were growing up.

The family moved to Center in the late 1960s and the children attended Center Area High School, where both brothers were known as big, strong, hard-playing members of the football team.

"They were the classic family with good parents," said Tom Alexander, 65, one of the boys' football coaches. "They were wonderful young men."

Also in high school, Cpl. Pokorny was inducted into the National Honor Society. His brother said he was offered a scholarship to play football at Carnegie Mellon University but instead attended Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., where he was a student manager for the football team. Mr. Pokorny doesn't know what prompted it, but when his brother was one semester shy of graduation he took the civil service exam and entered the State Police Academy in Hershey, from which he graduated in November 1983.

During his career, Cpl. Pokorny served at stations in Washington, Belle Vernon, Findlay and Newville but much of his tenure was spent working undercover in narcotics, often with Cpl. Yuhas, including attachment to a federal Drug Enforcement Administration task force in drug interdiction at Pittsburgh International Airport.

At the U.S. attorney's office, where Cpl. Pokorny was known for his work on federal drug cases, prosecutors mourned the death of an officer regarded as an excellent undercover operative.

"He was a very diligent, very thorough professional," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Nescott, a veteran drug prosecutor. "He was very good at what he did."

Mr. Nescott said Cpl. Pokorny seemed to have two personalities because of his undercover roles. As a trooper working drug cases, he sometimes rode a motorcycle, was dirty and wore his hair long and looked every bit the bedraggled drug dealer or customer. But in court, he transformed into his true self: a clean-cut, clean-living cop with an upbeat personality and a command of the facts of any case.

"He was like a whole different person," Mr. Nescott said.

"He loved it," recalled Dave Faber, 42, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a family friend who attended high school with the brothers. He said when asked about the danger of undercover work, Cpl. Pokorny just shrugged it off. The Pokornys were not the types to be afraid of anything, he said.

"Joe was a real tough guy," said Mr. Faber. "He was a real Pittsburgh guy."

In 1999, Cpl. Pokorny was among 20 federal, state and local law enforcement officers and prosecutors chosen as recipients of Outstanding Performance in Law Enforcement awards by the Law Enforcement Agency Directors, or L.E.A.D., created to encourage cooperation among the 17 law enforcement agencies in Western Pennsylvania.

Mr. Pokorny said his brother never talked much about his undercover work "except to say that he was doing his job. He didn't do his job to brag about or receive accolades. He took an oath to defend the state and took it very seriously."

Cpl. Pokorny, who was promoted to his current rank in 2000, had a son and a daughter -- Joseph, 17, and Alexandra, known as "Ali," 15 -- by his first wife, Stacy. After his divorce, he married Lauren M. Hutnik, who had several children of her own. The two were divorced in 2002, after which Cpl. Pokorny moved to a new house on Springer Drive in Moon.

Joanne Kirk, one of his neighbors on Springer, said Cpl. Pokorny was devoted to his children from both marriages and loved his job, although he said it was "stressful." She said he generally kept to himself "but was a real nice guy." He was known as a handyman, and Mrs. Kirk said he would clean her chimney.

As a Moon resident, Cpl. Pokorny was well known and respected by members of that community's police department.

"The Pennsylvania State Police are an elite unit, so to achieve the rank of corporal is a very big deal. You really have to be a sharp individual," said Moon Police Chief Leo McCarthy.

When the township sustained heavy flooding in September 2004 from Tropical Storm Ivan, Chief McCarthy said, Cpl. Pokorny checked up on township officers who were working overtime near the site of the natural disaster, bringing them food and drink -- even though he had been working overtime himself.

"He said, 'Anytime you need something, brother, I'll be there,' " Chief McCarthy said. "We're sick about this. Our officers held him in very high regard. He was a nice guy and down-to-earth, and viewed law enforcement as a team effort."

Yesterday afternoon, Moon police officers stood silent guard at Cpl. Pokorny's residence.

The black bands covering their badges spoke for them.

 


(Staff writers Torsten Ove and Dan Gigler contributed. Michael A. Fuoco can be reached at mfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1968.)

 


 

Salute to a fallen hero

Thousands attend funeral for slain state police corporal

Saturday, December 17, 2005

By Cindi Lash, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette

A memorial candle sits in the snow near the site where State Police Cpl. Joseph R. Pokorny was killed during a traffic stop early Monday in Carnegie. Fellow state police met near the site before going together to his funeral services in Beaver County yesterday.

 


Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette

More than 2,000 officers from across the nation attended funeral services for Cpl. Pokorny at St. Francis Cabrini Church in Center.

 


Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette

Cpl. Pokorny's children -- Alexandra, 15, and Joseph, 17 -- watch as their father's casket is placed into the hearse.

 


Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette

The funeral procession for Cpl. Pokorny arrives at the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hopewell.

 


To his son and daughter, he was the beloved coach and enthusiastic rooter at baseball games and gymnastic competitions.

To his family and friends, he was the charismatic heart of so many gatherings, the "man's man'' who relished roughhousing with children or sitting down with trusted buddies over a beer.

To his law enforcement comrades, he was the example to emulate, the supervisor who preferred the street to the desk and who pitched in whenever he saw the need.

Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Joseph R. Pokorny, 45, of Moon led "the model of a Christian life" in his devotion to those he loved and his duty to shield the public from harm, a priest told thousands of mourners at the slain trooper's funeral yesterday in Beaver County.

Cpl. Pokorny never shirked that duty, the Rev. Joseph J. Kleppner said, even though it cost him his life early Monday in a violent confrontation with a speeding driver who is accused of shooting him outside a Carnegie motel.

Yesterday's emotional service drew more than 2,000 uniformed officers from Massachusetts, California and many states in between as well as hundreds of others in plainclothes. Their convoys of cruisers, vans and motorcycles stretched for miles yesterday morning as they first drove past the slaying scene, above the Parkway West, in gestures of final respect before inching north along Route 60 to the church.

"Joe lived and personified the Pennsylvania State Police motto of honor, integrity, courage and duty," Father Kleppner told grieving officers, relatives and friends who jammed into St. Francis Cabrini Church in Center.

"In a world marred by sin and violence, where life is daily threatened ... or destroyed, Joe and his fellow officers were all about protecting and saving life,'' Father Kleppner said. "In [Cpl. Pokorny's] case, that meant the ultimate sacrifice.''

The man identified by police as his killer, convicted drug dealer Leslie Mollett, 30, was charged Wednesday with homicide and other offenses.

Father Kleppner and others who eulogized Cpl. Pokorny yesterday told of how he cleaned out a neighbor's chimney and of how he worked long hours after Hurricane Ivan last year, then volunteered for additional cleanup tasks after his shifts ended.

"Joseph was known to say, 'If you need me, I'll be there,' " the priest said.

He and others also referred to St. John's gospel passage, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." They implored mourners to take with them a renewed appreciation for all law enforcement officers who one day may also face that choice.

"I miss my friend. Now it is time for him to rest,'' said Trooper Chris Callaghan, who worked with Cpl. Pokorny.

"Let us never forget what Joe has done,'' he said in a voice that broke. Pausing for composure, Trooper Callaghan pledged his support to the family of the man he called "Our brother, our friend and my corporal."

As he spoke, some troopers and officers who filled the right side of the church briefly bowed their heads or dabbed crisp uniform sleeves against red eyes. Mourners rummaged for handkerchiefs, then grasped their pewmates' hands hard when they turned during the service to wish peace to one another.

But there was laughter, too, when Cpl. Pokorny's sister-in-law, Carolyn Pokorny, referred to him as "a hip guy'' who lived life on his own terms and didn't hesitate to let people know where they stood with him. They grinned when she spoke of him bowling with friends, hunting with a muzzle-loader and riding all-terrain vehicles.

And they nodded in recollection when Mrs. Pokorny spoke of his love for his son Joseph, 17, and daughter Alexandra, 15; his special relationship as firstborn son of his parents, Florence and Joseph Pokorny Sr.; and his habit of bestowing little pinches, on his nephews and nieces.

"We were all so proud of Joe ... seeing him in his uniform, doing what he wanted to do," she said. "We love him, we honor him, we respect him, we salute him."

In remarks directed to Cpl. Pokorny's children, Bishop Donald Wuerl called him a man who made it possible for good people to go about their lives safely.

"What separates the violence and chaos from goodness is that thin line of people who serve the law ... ,'' he said, before consoling the corporal's parents, his son and weeping daughter.

"Your father went there because he had decided in his life he was going to make this life a little better. Carry that with you, that he decided to do something important and we are so grateful," Bishop Wuerl said.

As mourners left the church, Monroeville police Officer James Markel sang "Danny Boy'' without accompaniment. Outside, police stood in a formation that nearly filled the parking lot, mingling blue, brown, green and gray dress uniforms.

Gov. Ed Rendell and Col. Jeffrey B. Miller, the state police commissioner, headed their ranks while U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, Attorney General Tom Corbett, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., Beaver County District Attorney Dale Fouse and other officials filed from the church.

A piper played "I Am Going Home'' and state police helicopters flew overhead as Cpl. Pokorny's silver casket was carried from the church for the trip to Mount Olivet Cemetery in Hopewell.

Children from Our Lady of Fatima School and other people lined the road to salute the funeral procession, wave U.S. flags or hold their hands over their hearts.

At the cemetery, stern-faced police formed in rows for the last time under a heavy snowfall, then snapped to attention at 2:20 p.m. while riflemen fired three volleys. Cpl. Pokorny's family attended a brief service in the small stone chapel before trumpeters played "Taps" outside the mausoleum where his body will lie.

Cpl. Pokorny's brother, Frank Pokorny, thanked state police and other police agencies that investigated his brother's slaying, attended the funeral or offered condolences.

"I know my brother was an extremely respected trooper," said Mr. Pokorny, who played for the Steelers in the 1980s. "But it is important for me to express he was more than that. He was a better son, father and brother and will be sorely missed by all those he touched."

Pausing briefly, he spoke once more: "He was my only brother and my hero. What I did pales in comparison."

Assembled on a hill, the pipe band played "Amazing Grace." A lone piper played the last verse of the hymn as he walked over the hill until the sound slowly faded away.

 


(Cindi Lash can be reached at clash@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1973.)

 

 


Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Loved ones recall slain trooper

By Michael Hasch
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
 

Cpl. Joseph Pokorny was many things -- a fearless policeman, an avid hunter, a private person who would give a friend the shirt off his back -- but most of all, he was a devoted father.

"He cared for his kids more than anything in the world," said his brother, Frank Pokorny, wiping tears from his eyes Monday outside his family's home in Beaver County.

Pokorny, 45, of Moon, a 22-year state police veteran, was shot and killed while making a traffic stop early yesterday near the Rosslyn Farms on-ramp to the Parkway West in Carnegie.

"He was a dedicated trooper and devoted father to his two children," said Robinson District Judge Carla Swearingen, one of the small but trusted circle of people Pokorny called friends.

Pokorny opted to work a steady midnight shift so he could be home during the day with his son, Joseph, 17, known as Jake, and daughter, Alexandre, 15, known as Ali.

"If he gave you his word, he stood by it. His biggest priority was his children. Everybody that knew him liked him," said Swearingen.

Pokorny was nearly 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, but he was small in childhood and learned at an early age how to defend himself from larger bullies, Frank Pokorny said.

"He was extremely fearless. He didn't take anything from anybody. He was a very hard-nosed person," his brother said.

Joseph Pokorny received a letter of commendation for bravery after an incident on July 8 when state police began chasing a man suspected of drunken driving and pulling a gun on a trooper.

When troopers tried to end the high-speed chase by putting spike strips on the Beaver Valley Expressway, the motorist turned around and began driving the wrong way.

When Pokorny saw the motorist trying to ram the side of a police car, he steered his cruiser into the path of the speeding car, hitting it head-on in a fiery collision.

"He saved one of our guys by taking on the other guy head-on," said state police Cpl. Kenneth Yuhas, one of several troopers offering condolences and support yesterday to Pokorny's parents, Florence and Joseph R. Pokorny, in Center Township.

"He actually put his life on the line by ramming the vehicle and stopping (it)," said Col. Jeffrey Miller, the head of the state police. "He was a very aggressive and conscientious corporal, always out there backing up the troops."

Pokorny, who joined the state police in 1983 after graduation from Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., spent much of his career working dangerous undercover narcotics and vice details, his brother said.

In 1990, he joined the state police Tactical Narcotics Team based in Greensburg, Westmoreland County.

"He would never tell me stories about it except that it was scary and it was ugly," Frank Pokorny said. "(Other troopers) tell me he was always the first one through the front door with the battering ram."

Tom Alexander, who was Pokorny's football coach at Center Area High School, remembers "Joey" as a student who gave his all on the football field and in the classroom.

"Joey was one of those kids who played hard. He chose a rough career. He was a good student," Alexander said.

Pokorny's smile is what impressed state police Cpl. David Bova. "The thing I'll miss the most is his laugh and his big smile," Bova said.

"He was a great kid, a great adult who was fun-loving in high school but took his job seriously," said Anthony Mendicino, principal of Center Area High School, where Pokorny graduated in 1978.

Frank Pokorny said his brother did not decide to pursue a career in law enforcement until his last semester in school.

Following his promotion to corporal in September 2000, Joseph Pokorny served at various stations --including Belle Vernon, Fayette County -- until January 2003 when he became the vice supervisor for Troop B headquarters in Washington County.

Pokorny, who also is survived by a sister, Laura Hill, of Center, became a patrol supervisor in Moon in July 2004, but refused to be tied to a desk reading reports.

"He was, like, caffeinated. He was high-speed. He would go out and get the job done. He was not a slug," said Trooper Robin Mungo, a state police spokeswoman.

"He always wanted to be out on the road with the guys," Yuhas said.

But Frank Pokorny said his brother was "a very private" man.

"He certainly was not a mixer. He had a very small circle of friends. He was very guarded until you earned his trust and respect. Then he'd give you the shirt off his back," Frank Pokorny said.

"He was like a brother to me," said Ronald Evans, who often went hunting with the Pokorny brothers. "He was a great guy, the best. You knew you could count on him."

Crystal Hoffman, who lives near Joseph Pokorny's home in the Sharon Hill Manor neighborhood of Moon, said she regularly returned Pokorny's golden retriever when it broke free of its tether and ended up at her home.

"I didn't know Joe well, but he seemed to have a very a good sense of humor. He seemed like the kind of guy who really enjoyed life," Hoffman said.

The Pokorny brothers were avid hunters who made a number of trips together to hunt elk out West.

They last saw each other last week when Joseph Pokorny visited his brother's home in Hanover, Beaver County.

"He went out in the back woods to go hunting. He was an incredible woodsman. When he came back, he said he saw a buck but didn't shoot it. He smiled and said, 'I didn't want to.'"

Frank Pokorny, known as "Fearless Frank" for his special teams play for the Steelers in 1985 and '86, made no effort to hide his pain and tears.

"He was my older brother. I loved and miss everything about him."

Michael Hasch can be reached at mhasch@tribweb.com or (412) 320-7820.

 

 


 

The Officer Down Memorial Page Remembers . . .

 

Photograph: Corporal Joseph R. Pokorny


Patch image: Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania

Corporal Joseph R. Pokorny
Pennsylvania State Police
Pennsylvania

End of Watch: Monday, December 12, 2005

Biographical Info
Age: 45
Tour of Duty: 22 years, 6 months
Badge Number: 4648

Incident Details
Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: Monday, December 12, 2005
Weapon Used: Officer's handgun
Suspect Info: Charged with homicide

Corporal Joseph Pokorny was shot and killed following a short pursuit near an exit ramp from I-279 in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, shortly after 0200 hours.

A violent struggle ensued after the driver of the vehicle crashed. During the struggle the suspect was able to gain control of Corporal Pokorny's service weapon. The suspect then shot him in the neck and chest. The round that struck him in the chest entered an area around his armpit not protected by his vest. The suspect then stole Corporal Pokorny's service weapon and fled the scene.

Several minutes later, a Carnegie police officer who happened to be driving by the scene, located Corporal Pokorny's body in a snowbank approximately 25-feet from his patrol car. A second handgun was found underneath Corporal Pokorny.

The suspect, who had been on parole for less than one month, was taken into custody later in the day and officially charged with Corporal Pokorny's murder two days later.

Corporal Pokorny had served with the Pennsylvania State Police for 22.5 years, and was assigned to Troop B, Pittsburgh. He is survived by his son, daughter, and parents.

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Year 2005 Press Releases
PSP Home  Back  Printable Version  eMail  Previous  Next

Governor Rendell Mourns Loss of State Police Cpl. Joseph R. Pokorny of Troop B, Pittsburgh

Trooper Shot in the Line of Duty

 



Photograph of Cpl. Pokorny
Photograph of Cpl. Joseph R. Pokorny


HARRISBURG --(December 12, 2005) --  Governor Edward G. Rendell today offered his condolences to the family and friends of State Police Cpl. Joseph R. Pokorny, a 22-year veteran trooper who was shot and killed during a traffic stop shortly after 2 a.m. on Interstate 279 near Pittsburgh.

 

“Cpl. Pokorny died while serving the citizens of the commonwealth,” Governor Rendell said.  “His tragic death reminds us once again that our law enforcement personnel put their lives at risk each time they put on their uniforms.  Midge and I extend our deepest sympathies to Cpl. Pokorny’s children and parents.”

 

State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller described Cpl. Pokorny, 45, as “an outstanding member of the department who displayed outstanding qualities of leadership.  He took great pride in his daily performance of duties.  His death is felt deeply by every member of the State Police family.”

 

Cpl. Pokorny was the 91st member of the department killed in the line of duty since the formation of State Police in 1905.

 

Cpl. Pokorny was a Patrol Unit supervisor at the Troop B, Pittsburgh, station at the time of his death.  During his career, he also served at stations in Washington, Belle Vernon, Findlay and Newville. He was promoted to corporal in September 2000.  He graduated from the State Police Academy in Hershey in November 1983.   

 

Cpl. Pokorny was a 1978 graduate of Center Area High School, Monaca. Survivors include his son, Joseph, 17; daughter, Alexandre, 15; and parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Pokorny Sr. of Aliquippa.

 

PSP/115

 


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