When this dark chapter in the history of the Metropolitan Police Department is finished being written, officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo will be remembered as fallen heroes. They paid for that vaunted status with their lives.
But what has shined through the shroud of community grief like a beacon in recent days is a light on the lives of Beck and Soldo, not as superhuman action figures, but as men. As heroic as their commitment to law enforcement was, those two uniformed street cops were far better men.
Beck’s packed memorial service Saturday at The Smith Center provided a ringing reminder. In the process, those in attendance and watching on television learned something else about the man.
Even in death, Beck was responsible for helping to save lives on June 8 and stop two killers who were trying to carry out a revolution of hate. More than an experienced patrol and training officer, Beck played a key role in customizing and implementing Metro’s Multi-Assault Counter-Terrorism Action Capabilities (“MACTAC”) plan for active- shooter incidents such as the one that occurred at Wal-Mart just minutes after Beck and Soldo were fatally wounded.
To hear his colleagues and family members describe his character, it’s an irony that would have mightily pleased Beck. He was the victim of a horrific act of cowardice, and yet he still helped nail the bad guys.
“Alyn actually trained me,” Sgt. Jimmy Oaks recalled during the service. After being put through his paces by the junior officer, Oaks concluded, “Who is this guy? I need him to come work for me.”
Oaks understood that the MACTAC training helped make the difference on that fateful Sunday. An awful day for Southern Nevada and Metro could have been much worse. Instead, the sergeants and officers on the scene at Wal-Mart responded with lightning quickness, in part thanks to the high quality of training they received. Shooter Jerad Miller was killed by a police bullet, and Amanda Miller then killed herself.
“They did a helluva job, and they got justice on our behalf,” Oaks said. “And that training kicked in, and they ran it by the numbers. They say when you’re under adversity, your training kicks in, and it did just that. And they acted on Alyn’s behalf when he was rendered incapable of defending himself.”
Fellow officer Mike Bland began working at the training academy with Beck a decade ago. Beck was gifted physically and mentally. He was a natural teacher and a tough task master. The combination was invaluable.
“He had such a passion for training,” Bland said. “Those who knew Alyn well, they loved his personality, loved his humor, they respected his intellect, and they also recognized that Alyn could eat his way through a box of cupcakes in record fashion. The man could eat almost anything and it never showed. And he must have converted whatever he ate into some type of fuel because he was one of the strongest people I’ve ever known.”
That strength, combined with uncommon tenacity, enabled Beck to set an example that not only improved training but also inspired his fellow officers and recruits.
During wrestling matches, others might have had superior technique, but Beck “never stopped coming forward,” Bland said. “He was absolutely exhausting. He was like a bad dream” who had an “unbelievable farm boy-like strength that was just hard to match.”
He was more than strong, Beck’s sister Elizabeth Krmpotich said.
“He could have been an undefeated UFC fighter, but instead he chose to spend his spare time teaching youth in Sunday school,” she said. “He was surrounded by less desirables throughout his work day, yet was far from cynical about the world that we live in.”
They were right to call him a hero but were wise to remember him as a real man.
Although they mourn their loss, Metro’s best will take Alyn Beck’s training and professionalism with them wherever they go.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (702) 383-0295.