A simple act of kindness led to a remarkable connection from the U.S. to Newfoundland and Labrador
While vacationing in Florida with his family this summer, RNC K-9 officer Const. Billy Kennedy visited the Tampa Police Department to pay tribute to a fallen officer who grew up in NL.
Kennedy had no idea at the time that, in just a few months, he would get to meet the late Cpl. Mike Roberts’s wife and son when Cindy Roberts brought her 13-year-old boy, Adam, to the province that meant so much to his father.
In the Line of Duty
Cpl. Mike Roberts was murdered while on duty on Aug. 19, 2009 when he approached a homeless man pushing a shopping cart loaded with guns. An 11-year veteran of the Tampa Police Department, Roberts was 38 years old. Adam was three years old at the time his father was murdered.
During his visit to the Tampa Police Department in August, Kennedy visited the memorial garden for the fallen officer. “There is a marble stone with Mike’s badge and badge number and an inscription of who he was and what happened,” Kennedy said. The garden is also a memorial to fallen police dogs, he said.
“There are small stones around (Roberts) stone. It’s just beautiful,” he said.
During his visit to the garden, Kennedy left an RNC Police Service Dog Challenge Coin asking that it be given to Roberts’s son. Shortly after leaving the coin for Adam, Kennedy was contacted and told that the boy had indeed received the coin and was thankful to have it. “I was happy to hear that they had gotten it so quickly. I thought that was the end of it,” Kennedy said.
A Lasting Impression
In November 2018 Kennedy received a call while off duty telling him that Cindy and Adam Roberts were at RNC headquarters in St. John’s asking to meet him. Kennedy made arrangements to meet them, at headquarters, before they returned to Florida. “I met them and introduced them to Gunner (Kennedy’s four-legged partner).” Adam made a lasting impression on Kennedy.
“He’s 13 but maturity-wise, he’s far beyond his years. He’s polite, well mannered… He’s a special kid and he’s going to do well no matter what he chooses to do in life,” Kennedy said.
To Kennedy’s surprise Adam presented him with a Tampa Police Department K-9 Challenge Coin. (Part of Mike Roberts’s policing career was as a K-9 officer).
“Adam did it really officially. He shook my hand when he gave it to me. He’s just such a beautiful kid,” he said.
Roberts was born in Clearwater, Florida and grew up in St. John’ s (his mother Brenda Roberts is from NL). He returned to the United States following graduation from Memorial University.
Roberts served in the U.S. Army Reserve and spent nine months in Bosnia. He also served with the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
An Honourable Career
According to the City of Tampa website, he joined the police force in 1998 and served in Patrol until 2005 when he became a K-9 officer. Roberts served a year as a field training officer and was promoted to the rank of Corporal on July 12, 2009. He was honoured with a lifesaving award in 2005. During his career, he was awarded dozens of Letters of Appreciation from citizens, supervisors and other law enforcement agencies.
When contacted by phone about her trip to Newfoundland, Cindy Roberts said her son has always been interested in learning more about his father and the province where his father grew up.
“We all have that sense of where we come from, where we belong, how we fit into this world… And I told him, when he was ready, we would take a trip to where Daddy grew up and we’ll talk to his friends and his family,” Roberts said during a phone interview.
At age 13, the timing was right for her son to get to know more about his father’s roots. “Adam was awestruck (by the province). He kept commenting about how the people are so nice. I told him that’s what struck me, too, the first time his dad brought me for a visit… I said, ‘This is who your dad was,’” Roberts said.
Roberts said their initial visit to the RNC was much more than she expected. Even though Kennedy wasn’t working that day, she said, the officer she initially met gave her and Adam a tour of police headquarters. “Const. (Steve) Simmons asked if we would like a little tour. That little tour was two-and-a-half hours. It exceeded anything that I thought would happen. It was really nice to see how other (police) agencies operate and the facilities that they have. It was fantastic.”
Meeting Kennedy during the follow-up visit to RNC headquarters was also a great experience, she said. “Billy gave us another tour and introduced us to some of the men and women (who work at the RNC). That was incredible, too.”
Roberts agreed to speak to The Herald about her and Adam’s visit to NL as she feels a published story is a way to help keep her husband’s memory alive.
“I really believe in the phrase that a man remembered never dies. Mike was an incredible person. I am thankful for the love and compassion everyone has shown us as a result of what I thought was just going to be a little trip to help my son feel like he knew his Dad…. Thank-you for doing this,” she said.