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West Valley City • Three dozen police officers stood at attention and saluted as the flag-draped remains of Officer Cody Brotherson were loaded into a hearse Sunday morning, about six hours after he was hit and killed by three suspects in a stolen car.
Brotherson, 25, is the first West Valley City officer killed in the line of duty since the city was formed in 1980, and the second in Utah this year. He has been on the police force for three years and leaves behind a fiancée, two brothers and his parents.
"A West Valley born and bred individual and our hearts are heavy with his loss," Police Chief Lee Russo told reporters at a news conference.
Asked about the makeshift processional at the scene, where 20 police cars followed the hearse to the state medical examiner's office, Russo said: "This man gave his life, so we honor that and this community honors that.
"It devastates us that is the bottom line. We are a family."
A little after 3 a.m., officers observed a silver BMW coupe with Florida plates that they deemed suspicious. They saw three males walking from the car to the Boulder Pines Apartment Complex, at 1535 W. 4040 South, and watched as the trio stole a vehicle.
The officers tried to stop that vehicle, but the driver punched it on 4100 South, heading west. Officers threw tire spikes near Redwood Road, but that didn't stop the suspects.
It appears that Brotherson, who pulled his car over near 2200 West, was attempting to lay down another set of tire spikes when the suspects' car hit him. The chase lasted less than a minute.
Brotherson died at the scene, roughly 50 yards west of his police car.
The suspects' vehicle was run off the road and became disabled, Russo said. The three ran and were later arrested, apparently without injury. They are under age 18.
The Unified Police Department is leading the investigation.
Russo said it wasn't clear if the suspects intentionally hit Brotherson. He added that it was premature to release any information about whom they are or what charges they may face.
Russo said he has brought in counselors and the department's Peer Support Team. He also said he has heard from police chiefs throughout the state.
"My phone has been blowing up all morning with just about every police chief here in the valley, and even outside, expressing their condolences and offering their support," he said.
Jenny Brotherson, Brotherson's mother, described her son as someone with a loyal heart who would do anything for those he loved.
"Our amazing and beautiful son, brother, nephew, friend and boyfriend wanted to be a police officer his entire life," Brotherson said as she stood outside the family home in West Valley City surrounded by the officer's loved ones. "That dream was realized three years ago but was cut short this morning."
She said the family is proud of what Brotherson did with his life and thanked the West Valley City Police Department and its officers for their support.
"As a family, we ask that when you see a police officer, you give them the support and respect that they deserve," Brotherson said.
She asked for privacy for the family and said funeral plans will be announced soon.
As news of the officer's death spread, condolences were also tweeted by police departments across the state.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown tweeted: "We @slcpd grieve for our brothers and sisters @WVCPD. We mourn the loss of a #Hero."
The Utah Department of Corrections tweeted: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the @WVCPD as we mourn the loss of an officer who was killed in the line of duty. #staystrongwvc"
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the @WVCPD & and the family of the fallen officer. Another tragic loss in the law enforcement family," tweeted the Utah Department of Public Safety.
The Roy Police Department tweeted, "We love you @WVCPD"
The officer is the second to die in the line of duty in Utah this year. Unified Police Officer Doug Barney was shot and killed Jan. 17 by a fugitive parolee fleeing the scene of a traffic accident in Holladay.
Brotherson is the 140th Utah peace officer to die in the line of duty, noted Tribune columnist Robert Kirby, who has written a book about the state's fallen officers, and the first to die while trying to place tire spikes in a roadway.
Tribune reporters Pamela Manson and Matthew Piper contributed to this story.