A sea of blue filled the floor of the XL Center in Hartford Saturday, as family, friends, fellow officers, and the public gathered to say goodbye to fallen Hartford Detective Robert “Bobby” Garten.
The celebration of life for Detective Garten was filled with emotion as those who knew him best remembered him as a great officer and and even greater person.
“He was only with us for eight years, but his influence was immeasurable. He was and always will be our hero,” Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody said.
Garten died Sept. 6 at the age of 34 when a driver who was fleeing from a traffic stop hit the police cruiser Garten was in, police said.
He was born and raised in Wethersfield, lived in Newington and graduated from the police academy in 2015, following his father’s footsteps to become a Hartford police officer.
Detective Garten’s brother, Will, recalled the mischief the two would get into as children. He told a story about an 8-year-old Bobby attempting to enlist in the Navy. The Navy sent a packet to the Garten home and thanked Bobby for his interest, but that he was a bit too young. They suggested the Sea Cadets, and Will said Bobby quickly joined and continued with the Sea Cadets through high school.
“Bobby, you were born my little brother, and died my hero,” Will Garten said.
The most emotional moments at the service came when Det. Garten’s partner, Officer Brian Kearney, took the stage to speak.
Officer Kearney was driving the cruiser when it was struck on Asylum Avenue and he sustained serious injuries.
Through tears, Officer Kearney spoke about the bond the two of them shared and how exceptional of an officer Bobby Garten was.
The two were part of the Hartford Police Department’s Street Crimes Unit in the city’s North End. They were responsible for taking some of the most dangerous criminals off the streets of Hartford.
“A partner’s love is one that takes two strangers and makes them brothers,” Officer Kearney said.
He spoke about the night of the crash and how Detective Garten always took care of him.
“In our last moments, somewhere between Heaven and Earth, I know Bob told me to turn back and to stay home so I could take care of my family and our teammates. I can hear him saying ‘It’s okay Brian, I’ve got this.'”
Officer Kearney choked up several times as he remembered his partner.
“He saved my life that night by sacrificing his,” he said.
Before he left the stage, Officer Kearney had one more tribute for his partner.
“My last gesture to my partner is to award him with the highest honor the Hartford Police Department has to offer — the Medal of Valor — my Medal of Valor.”
He signed off for their unit, Unit 133, before placing his medal on Garten’s casket.
A horse-drawn carriage carried Det. Garten’s casket into the Wethersfield Village Cemetery where he was laid to rest.
The ceremony at the cemetery included a 21-gun salute and a helicopter flyover to honor Det. Garten.