Smart, dedicated and eager, Officer Robert German could have opted to join a large Central Florida police department and climb the ranks.
But German, 31, loved the little southwest Orange County town of Windermere. He wanted to make a difference in people's lives.
"It wasn't just a job to him," said Richart Weinblatt, a former professor and program manager with the police academy at Seminole State College of Florida. "He was such a young, energetic, happy guy who loved what he was doing."
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South Apopka Vineland Road & Conroy Windermere Road, Lake Butler, FL 32819, USA
- Windermere, FL, United States
All that came to an end early Saturday when German was shot to death on Conroy-Windermere Road after calling for help from other officers. Investigators said he encountered a man and a woman walking, but they have not divulged why German asked for backup.
His killing came less than six weeks after Orange County Deputy Jonathan Scott Pine, 34, was shot to death as he investigated car burglaries in a residential neighborhood about a mile north of where German was gunned down.
German's death was the first in the line of duty for the town, chartered nearly 90 years ago.
"Windermere's heart is broken," Town Mayor Gary Bruhn said Saturday after meeting with German's family.
German's friend Bryan Burke, an Altamonte Springs senior police officer, said he had tried to talk German into joining the Altamonte force, which is larger, pays better and has more opportunities for promotion.
German, known to friends as "Robbie," preferred to stay with Windermere, which has 12 paid officer positions and two reserves.
"He was dedicated to the people of Windermere," Burke said.
German returned to the road Monday after four months on desk duty following shoulder surgery, friends said. He worked Monday and Tuesday, was off Wednesday and Thursday and came back for a late shift Friday into early Saturday.
"He said he couldn't wait to get back on patrol," Bruhn said. "He was glowing."
Something went wrong about 4 a.m.
German was lying on the south side of Conroy-Windermere Road about a block west of Apopka-Vineland Road, near a Walgreens, when four Orange County deputies and one police officer each from Orlando and Ocoee rushed to help him.
Before they could assess what had happened, the deputies and officers heard shots nearby, the Sheriff's Office said.
The deputy who arrived first used a patrol car to shield German, lifted him into the car and then handed him over to Orange County Fire Rescue emergency workers, who tried to resuscitate on him on the way to the hospital.
The five-year veteran was pronounced dead at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
The man and woman who German saw walking on Conroy-Windermere Road ran west past the Windermere post office after the shooting, sheriff's spokeswoman Jane Watrel said. Their bodies were found in brush near Isleworth Realty, about a block from where German fell.
The Sheriff's Office, which is investigating, said their deaths were apparent suicides. Their names were not released.
German, like other Windermere officers, was equipped with a body camera. Sheriff's investigators said they would analyze any images retrieved from the device.