TOMS RIVER – Police and community members are mourning one of their own, as Officer Brett Hansen succumbed to injuries from an off-duty crash that occurred months earlier.
Hansen, 28, was involved in an off-duty collision on the Garden State Parkway on Jan. 4. According to police, it was through a team of surgeons and a miracle that he survived that night. Ultimately, after months of fighting to recover, the injuries were too much.
He graduated the Ocean County Police Academy in 2012. He started as an officer in the Camden County Police Department in 2013 before joining Toms River in 2015.
His parents, James and Laurie, raised Brett and his brother, Tyler, in Brick. A statement from the police said “He and his family are among the most humble and respectful people we’ve ever known. Brett was known to drop whatever he was doing to help others with whatever they needed. He was described as a ‘true blessing to his family and the neighborhood.’ This was clear to anyone who had met Brett and to his coworkers. Above all, it was his dedication and unwavering love to his family that was truly inspiring. Much of Brett’s off duty time was spent with them and his extended family.”
“He cared genuinely about people he spoke to. And they knew it,” said Mike Gallipoli, Hansen’s Field Training Officer. “It was unique. It was something that couldn’t be coached.”
This compassion let him be able to defuse tense situations. “He would show empathy to the victim of a crime and even a suspect.”
He got along well with the other officers, he said. He followed West Virginia college football and baseball, and was a fan of the Yankees and Giants.
Gallipoli recalled ragging on him for his diet that seemed to consist almost entirely of candy. “That’s all this guy ate.” Once, he was forced to sit down and eat a turkey sandwich with fries. He took one bite of a sandwich, drowned his fries in ketchup and ate those.
Of course, there was at least one time that he had a real meal, and there was photographic evidence of it.
He sat down to lunch at Al’s Pizza on Route 9. A father and daughter walked in and saw him eating alone. The 6-year-old girl decided she would go talk to him. According to police, “The little girl walked up to Brett to say hello and they chatted for about ten minutes, all along smiling and enjoying the conversation. This is the kind of police officer and man Brett was, the kind we all strive to be. He will be dearly missed by all.” Sadly, the photo was taken just days before the crash.
“That’s the kind of guy he was,” Gallipoli said. “He definitely was in the right profession. I think about the lives he would have touched.”