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Slain officer was committed to changing lives, his father says

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By Margaret Harding
Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011

In the week and a half since a gunman killed his son during a traffic stop, John Dryer said he has literally felt the impact Officer John "David" Dryer had on the community.

"My hand is sore from people squeezing it, expressing their sorrow that he is gone," John Dryer, 74, said on Tuesday at his family farm in Avella.

Dryer and his wife, JoAnn, left last night to visit relatives in Atlanta, four days after burying their son. During an hourlong interview, the house phone rang at least three times. Dryer said it's been like that all week, with people calling from across the country to offer their condolences.

"He helped so many people we never knew," he said. "He dedicated his life to helping other people."

David Dryer, 46, of Claysville, a veterinarian and part-time East Washington police officer, was fatally shot on Dec. 18 during a traffic stop on Interstate 70 in South Strabane. Officer Robert Caldwell, who provided backup, was shot in the right hand. Police killed the gunman, Eli Franklin Myers III, at his Rostraver home when he came out armed after a 10-hour standoff.

John Dryer recalled his son's life of service.

David Dryer became a volunteer firefighter at 16. He suffered second- and third-degree burns fighting a fire while he was in vet school.

"He just assumed it was his duty," John Dryer said.

When his son told him he wanted to go into law enforcement, Dryer said it was impossible to talk him out of it.

"I said, 'You're a veterinarian, you don't need to risk your life as a police officer,' " John Dryer said. "It was like water off a duck's back. I'll guarantee he helped more people than he ever arrested."

More than 1,000 people attended Dryer's funeral on Friday in Washington. John Dryer said he was touched by what he saw through the dark and gloom as a procession of 750 vehicles drove through town.

"It was absolutely miserable out -- cold, raining," John Dryer said. "Everyone all along the streets had their cars stopped, got out and had a hand over their heart or waving a flag, in the dark in the rain.

"It was incredible."

Supporters established the David Dryer Memorial Fund to provide for the officer's son, Ben, 17, who is autistic. John Dryer said he also wants the money to benefit an autism group.

Ben Dryer has been texting his relatives in the close-knit family several times a day since his father died, said Beth Ann Nijenhuis, David Dryer's sister.

"I still think he's suppressing a lot," she said. "It takes a lot for him to express his feelings. He's texting us five times a day how much he loves us. That breaks your heart."

On the kitchen counter in the Dryer home was a photo of David Dryer and a young Ben grinning at the camera, one of David Dryer running along a beach with a niece and another of him posing in full uniform as a Civil War re-enactor.

"We'll miss him terribly," John Dryer said.

The Western Pennsylvania Benevolent Foundation and others planned to collect donations on behalf of the fund before last night's Penguins game at Consol Energy Center. They also are selling T-shirts commemorating David Dryer at and . Donations can be made at any Washington Financial Bank or mailed to the bank at 3616 Washington Road, McMurray PA 15317.

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