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Update: Wounded Officer Is Beloved Football Coach

Fermi High School community reacts to news of Bill Beeler's shooting.

Bill Beeler was told he was taking on a tough task in 2010, assuming the head football coaching duties at Fermi High School, where the program had suffered through numerous consecutive losing seasons.

That type of adversity is nothing compared to what Beeler has been through in his professional life.

Beeler, a Manchester police officer, was shot Thursday by a gunman who had taken his own family hostage in a Manchester home. The gunman was later killed by a police sniper.

Beeler was shot in the shoulder, and was transported to Hartford Hospital, where he was originally listed in fair condition. Late Thursday evening, Beeler was released after undergoing surgery, according to his uncle, Enfield Police Sgt. Chuck Grasso.

Enfield Coordinator of Athletics Barry Bernstein said Beeler has been a police officer for about three years, and was one of the first responders to the shooting last summer at Hartford Distributors, where eight people were slain by a co-worker, who then turned the gun on himself.

"Bill was the officer who identified (shooting victim) Craig Pepin, who had been his youth coach," Bernstein said.

Prior to joining the Manchester police force, Beeler graduated from South Windsor High School and served in the military, where he spent some time overseas during the war on terror, Bernstein said. His father, Howie Beeler, was a longtime Manchester police officer.

"Bill is a stellar police officer, a stellar coach, an Iraqi war veteran - the kid does everything right," Grasso said.

Grasso, who is an assistant football coach at Fermi, spent several hours with Beeler at Hartford Hospital Thursday night. "He is very upbeat, and excited about getting back to police work and football," he said.

A number of get-well wishes have been posted on the Fermi Football Facebook page. Members of the football team constructed a giant card for their coach, filling it with signatures and good wishes.

"Last night we had Fermi Idol, and one of our football captains started informing us," junior Trey Duggan said. "Coach generally says any day could be your last day, and to hear that he had taken a bullet made us nervous for a while. But then we heard he was doing all right, so we're definitely keeping our heads up at this point."

Senior football player Matt Provencher said, "I know he's strong, I hope he gets better soon, and the whole team is thinking about him. Everybody has him in our thoughts."

"Our prayers are with Officer Beeler and his family," said Enfield police officer Eric Hoover, who is the school resource officer at Fermi.

Fermi principal Paul Newton said, "The entire Enrico Fermi High School community was saddened to hear about the injury sustained by Coach Beeler.  We are relieved that he is on the road to recovery.  We are extremely proud of Coach Beeler and his heroic efforts.  He serves as an extremely positive role model for all of us in Enfield.  We are fortunate to have individuals like Coach Beeler who risk their life on a daily basis to keep the residents of Connecticut safe.  All of our hearts go out to Coach and his family and we wish him a speedy recovery."

"He is loaded with respect, dignity and honor, and he's a passionate and caring guy when it comes to the kids," Bernstein said.

Beeler and his wife, Lauren, are parents of 2-year-old twins, and are expecting their third child in late summer, Bernstein said.

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