Blake Brooks knows Daddy is dead.
The 4-year-old son of Cpl. Courtney G. Brooks, a police officer killed by a hit-and-run driver on New Year's Eve, is aware that his father "is in heaven," said Derek Brooks, the officer's uncle.
The 13-year veteran of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police is to be buried with full police honors today at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium after a funeral at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.
Brooks' youngest child, a 2-year-old girl named Raigen, "doesn't really know what's going on yet," the uncle said. Both are Brooks' children with his fiancee, Susan G. Geisler, with whom he lived in Hampstead. Brooks had another child, Casey, 17, from a marriage that ended in divorce.
Casey was left "devastated and numb" by her father's death, Derek Brooks said, and he has been trying to coax her out of her shell since they got the news. "I didn't want her to just ball up into a knot and not communicate," Brooks said. His late brother, Ronald Brooks, was the fallen officer's father.
While the family grieves, police continue to investigate the Dec. 31 accident. Brooks was struck by a sport utility vehicle as he set out cones on Interstate 95 to prevent trucks from gaining access to the Interstate 395 ramp during the New Year's Eve celebrations in downtown Baltimore. The owner of the vehicle, Kerri J. King, a 35-year-old stripper and mother of four, was arrested hours later but has not been charged. She is being held on a failure-to-appear warrant after a drunken-driving arrest in September.
Family members described Brooks, who was 40, as a relentless prankster and dedicated Notre Dame football fan who wrote poetry, dabbled in photography and teared up during soppy movies. They all called him "Spanky."
Brooks' sister, Kelli Tucker, three years his senior, said that every Christmas she would receive a gag gift from her brother.
"He'd find the ugliest thing in the world to give me, and he'd make a big presentation out of it," she said. "It was torture. I'd say, 'Oh no, what it is this time?'"
This past Christmas, the gift was a stuffed "bipolar animal," Tucker said, a beast with a crazy side and another less so.
Tucker said her children, Jasmine, 9, and David, 19, have been badly upset by the death of their uncle. He was Jasmine's godfather and, for reasons no one could fathom, he called her Mugatay.
"And my son idolized him," Tucker said. "They act alike. I was just telling one of the officers who's driving us around today that my brother was not the only crazy one in the family. David's really going to miss him."
Tucker said that when she spoke with her brother on the afternoon of Dec. 31, he told her he didn't feel like going to work. "But he said, 'I may as well go because if I don't I'll mess someone else's night up,'" Tucker recalled. "That was the last conversation I had with him."
Brooks was on the phone again later that evening, before midnight, with his Uncle Derek. "He told me he thought I'd be sleep by midnight, so that's why he was calling now," Derek Brooks said, managing a laugh. "He was busting my chops, so we exchanged a few unpleasantries. We got the call about the accident about 40 minutes later."
Family members congregated quickly at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where they learned that Brooks had not survived.
"He did not deserve to die that way," his uncle said. "I feel I lost a son."
Beyond the messages of condolence from police officers from around the country - about 1,000 of whom are expected to attend the funeral - Brooks was particularly touched by the Transportation Authority's decision to post a guard around the clock by his nephew's body.
"Now that we've gotten through the initial shock, we're involved in this overwhelming task of putting this funeral together," said Brooks, a planner for Becton, Dickinson and Co., a medical technology firm. "The law enforcement community has been amazing about that."
The family's emotions are fragile, he said. He acknowledged breaking down Friday while driving on the Baltimore Beltway when he saw a lighted highway sign warning drivers to expect delays during the funeral procession today. Brooks also became upset when reading messages posted for the family on the Web site of Officer Down Memorial Page Inc., a nonprofit organization that honors the country's 18,000 fallen law enforcement officers.
His nephew's passion for Notre Dame football - which extended to a house full of memorabilia, including Notre Dame bedsheets for his son - had apparently been inspired by the 1993 film Rudy, in which a pint-sized small-town boy from a steel-mill town, played by Sean Astin, yearns to play football at Notre Dame, and eventually does.
"On a Sunday, Courtney and I would be in the man-cave, smoking cigars, drinking a beer and watching the Ravens," Brooks said. "He was like a big kid."
A sprinter in his days at Northern High School, the younger Brooks was not one to dwell on the dangers of his profession.
"We never had that type of conversation," his uncle said. "He was one of the upbeat people on the face of the planet. He loved life."
Baltimore transportation officials are planning street closures and detours to accommodate today's funeral for Maryland Transportation Authority Police Cpl. Courtney G. Brooks.
The funeral is to be held at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen at 5200 N. Charles St. Starting at 7 a.m., Charles Street, from the 4400 block to the 5400 block, will be closed to traffic. Parking will also be prohibited on Charles from Cold Spring Lane to Northern Parkway.
After the services, the northbound Jones Falls Expressway will close to accommodate the funeral procession to Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens. Motorists should expect delays from noon to 4 p.m. as the procession heads to the Padonia Road exit of Interstate 83, and then to Dulaney Valley Road.
A procession for police officers is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. at Belvedere and Park Heights avenues.