Tim Caprio paddled a canoe to a quiet spot in the Loch Raven Reservoir to ask his girlfriend, Amy, to marry him. The couple said their vows outside, too, in Rocks State Park in Harford County in 2016.
Then, last month, on the Monday between the couple’s third anniversary and her 30th birthday, Amy S. Caprio, a Baltimore County police officer for almost four years, was killed on the job, hit by a vehicle while responding to a burglary call in Perry Hall. Four teenagers have been indicted on murder charges in her death.
On Sunday, Tim Caprio and hundreds of friends and supporters rode mountain bikes seven miles through Gunpowder Falls State Park in Kingsville, a tribute to a policewoman who had loved bicycling and nature — even if all the blue T-shirts emblazoned with “The Ride for Amy” would have made her roll her eyes.
“I know Amy wouldn’t like this right now, because she would want us to move on with our lives,” Tim Caprio told the crowd of cyclists before they began. “But it was supposed to rain really bad; however, it seems to be holding up right now, and I’d like to think that’s her, to some degree.”
Participation in the ride was free, but bicyclists and other donors have given more than $15,000 to the Harford County Humane Society, the Caprio family’s designated charity, said executive director Jen Swanson.
Amy had adopted Doodle, her rescue pit bull, from the Humane Society.
“She was a huge animal lover; their whole family are huge animal lovers and have rescued pets all their lives,” Swanson said. “It is very bittersweet, but it is also heartwarming and humbling to see the outpouring of support from the community.”
Mountain biking is one of Tim Caprio’s favorite activities — “my getaway from reality,” he said, “to clear my mind.” Amy had loved it, too, and recently bought a new mountain bike.
When Tim broached the idea of organizing a bike ride in her honor, the Gunpowder United Mountain Bike Operators group, of which he is a member, and the Friends of Jerusalem Mill jumped into action to put it together, he said. Independent Brewing Co. and the Greene Turtle, among others, donated refreshments.
Jerry Fonshell, president of GUMBO, as the mountain biking group is known, said the riders knew how much it would mean, not only to the Caprio family, but to other police and public servants. The ride also included a five-mile road loop, since the off-road portion was deemed too challenging for beginners.
“I immediately thought of that critical-mass display of solidarity: 500 bikers taking over the road,” Fonshell said. “People are going to know the support that our public servants have.”
GUMBO also held a previous memorial ride for 41-year-old Thomas Palermo, a cyclist who was killed in a crash in Baltimore on Dec. 27, 2014, Fonshell said.
“The cycling community is very tight knit and supportive,” he said. “We stand up and support one another.”
The weather wasn’t perfect, but the estimated 300 riders who turned out to pedal through miles of rain-sodden trails served as a testament to Caprio’s legacy, said Megan Alexander, another one of the organizers.
“Her memory means more to people than getting a little wet, or getting a little muddy,” she said.
After Tim Caprio spoke, Amy’s mother, Debbie Sorrells, stepped forward to ring the ceremonial starting bell. The historic ship’s bell had been repurposed long ago to serve as a school bell, according to Rick Decker, president of Friends of Jerusalem Mill.
Sorrells wore a police badge pin on a black shirt with her daughter’s name and end-of-watch date on the back. She was overwhelmed by the crowd standing astride their bikes before her.
She agreed with her son-in-law: Amy, a “humble, quiet person who didn’t like any to-do,” would’ve thought the ride was too much.
But as the crowd pedaled away, Sorrells wondered aloud: “How do you thank people?”
“It’s heartwarming to see how the community gathers together for support,” she said. “She’ll be a living memory to all of us. … It gives you a sense of peace inside to know that there’s so much love. That’s what gets you through.”
Amy Caprio had always told her mother about her “police family,” a concept Sorrells had struggled to fully grasp.
“Now I know what she meant by it,” she said.