May 8, 2006, is a day that resonates with many in Fairfax County. That was when a heavily armed teen took the lives of Vicky Armel and Michael Garbarino.
Now, 13 years later, their legacy lives on. Second Lieutenant Boyd Thompson, now retired, said he was walking down the hallway when tragedy struck Fairfax County’s Sully District police station.
“I came down this hallway and was met with a gauntlet of officers, is how I’ll describe it. All of them heavily armed in the doorways,” Thompson said. “I ran past them and to the door. They said, ‘Boyd, you can’t go out there,’ and I didn’t know they couldn’t hear Gabby on the radio. Gabby was at the backdoor…’please come help me, come get me.'”
That day, Officer Michael “Gabby” Garbarino and detective Vicky Armel became the first officers in Fairfax County to be killed in a line-of-duty shooting.
“Multiple calls came in for carjackings about three miles from here. We were actually on the scene of the carjackings when shots rang out here. The whole time, Gabby’s on the radio advising us what’s going on,” Thompson recalled. “The officers got here and were able to come in on the backside to eventually subdue the individual firing at our officers. We rescued Gabby, who was in his car. We got him out, unaware that Vicky was even out there.”
“When the call came in, she came back here and went out the back door and engaged with the subject. Unfortunately, he was able to eventually take Vicky out. Unfortunately, Vicky didn’t make it, and Gabby lasted about another 10 days.”
Almost 13 years later, the pain still remains.
“It’s something we’ll never forget. That was the first and only officer we had killed in the line of duty of active violence,” Thompson said.
And the physical reminders are still there.
“This symbolizes a lasting memory,” Thompson said, pointing at the bullet holes in the wall. “We’ve replaced our doors and our glass, but we’re not gonna replace this building. They could replace the gutter, but they never have. People come here and they see a memorial, and they can actually…these scars, and these scars are with us for a lifetime.”
Several memorials have been built at the Sully station in honor of the fallen heroes, including a memorial wall, a fountain that resembles a flowing future and permanent parking spots.
Every year on May 8, the department holds a ceremony to honor Garbarino and Armel, who officers say embodied the ideal public servant.
“Here in a few months, we’ll be doing it exactly where we’re standing. We’re gonna present a wreath to the family, flowers…and we have a helicopter that flies over,” said Commander Dean Lay. “When you become a police officer, the number one question that’s asked is, ‘why do you want to become a police officer?’ And the familiar answer is because, ‘I want to give back. I want to serve public service.'”
“For Vicky and Gabby to run out of this building risking their lives, knowing gunshots were being fired at them, is the ultimate symbol of public service.”
While fellow officers said losing such heroes can feel like a lost battle, remembering them, in all their good works, will inspire you to keep up the fight.