GRPD officer’s father killed in Afghanistan

Dr. Jerry Umanos, second from left, and his son, Ben, second from right. (Courtesy: GRPD)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – The father of a Grand Rapids police officer was one of three civilian doctors killed in Afghanistan, according to the Grand Rapids Police Department.

“My dad’s a doctor.  My mom’s a school teacher,” Officer Ben Umanos told 24 Hour News 8 when he was sworn in as an officer in January. “They raised me to live a life of service and I think that’s reflected in the career [of a police officer].”

His father Dr. Jerry Umanos was at the ceremony to witness his son vow to serve and protect Grand Rapids.

Dr. Umanos was killed Thursday after an Afghan security guard opened fire at hospital in Kabul, according to the Associated Press.

According to Dr. Umanos’ biography on the website of the Lawndale Christian Health Center — where he practiced medicine in Chicago — he was helping to teach physician residents, midwives and community health workers in Afghanistan.

“We talked about his family a lot, and it definitely reflected in his police work,” Ben Umanos’ training officer, GRPS officer Tom Warwick, told 24 Hour News 8. “I think he was very proud of the work his parents do… I think his parents were equally proud of him too, going into this profession.”

Warwick told 24 Hour News 8 that he spoke with Umanos briefly on the phone Thursday morning. 24 Hour News 8 was told that Umanos was headed home to Chicago to be with his family during this difficult time.

When asked if Umanos had really come to grips with the death of his father, Warwick replied, “I don’t think so. I don’t think news like that sinks in. I’m not even sure over time [Umanos] will fully accept it.”

The Associated Press reports that the gunman was a member of the Afghan Public Protection Force assigned to guard the hospital. He shot himself during the attack, but underwent surgery and is in custody.

Dr. Umanos was one of three doctors killed. Two others were wounded in the attack. Dr. Umanos was a board-certified pediatrician, and the hospital where the attack took place specialized in children’s and maternal care.

“I think it’s going to be pretty hard to swallow that he was over there for the nature that he was over there,” said Warwick.

Warwick said the entire GRPD family will be at Umanos’ disposal during this difficult time. He said that the other nine members of Umanos’ hiring class have all already reached out to offer their support.

“I think they know the dangers a little bit, but I think you hope you never get that phone call,” said Warwick. “Just like I’m sure his parents are probably worried about his safety every time he puts a uniform on, I think it’s — he never actually voiced that — but you could see when he talked about it he knew the dangers, Ben did, of [his parents] going over [to Afghanistan].”

Umanos is part of GRPD’s most recent recruit class and was hired in December 2013, according to the department. He is currently participating in the field-training program.

Prior to joining GRPD, Umanos worked with the Manistee County Sheriff’s Department from 2009 to 2012. He graduated from North Park University in Chicago, and was ranked at the top of his class at the Oakland Community College Police Academy, GRPD said in a release.

Umanos’ last day of training was scheduled for Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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