Shelton police officers sport beards to aid friend, colleague

SHELTON — Some two dozen police officers are donning facial hair, but this is not simply a fashion statement.

Several department members are taking part in No Shave November and raising money for one of their own, Officer Rich Van Tine. He was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma of the liver earlier this year and has been undergoing treatment.

“Rich is one of our guys … with the holidays coming up, we wanted to raise money to help him and his family,” Officer John McMahon, who also started a GoFundMe page to benefit the Van Tine family, said.

Overall, the GoFundMe page has raised nearly $11,000 and the No Shave November - which the department has chosen to continue through December to help raise even more money - stands at about $2,400.

Van Tine is a 24-year resident of Shelton and a Marine Corps veteran who served in the Gulf War.

He was a state trooper for 25 years, assigned to the bureau of special investigations and handled cases dealing with narcotics, auto theft and public corruption. He was retired from the State Police when he joined the Shelton Police Department in 2020.

His friends and former colleagues with the State Police held a benefit night at Portofinos in New Haven on Nov. 2. Many Shelton officers attended as well, and, in all, the event raised more than $7,000 to help Van Tine’s family and cover some of his medical expenses.

Van Tine declined to comment, but his fellow officers say he has been touched by the support shown by his co-workers, both past and present, in this difficult time.

“This has been a tragic event for Rich, but in speaking to him a couple times, he couldn’t be more touched with the support,” Shelton Detective Christopher Nugent said. “It means a lot to him that a lot of people in law enforcement that he has worked with over the years have shown he and his family such support.”

“He’s a great cop, has a great reputation, and anything we can do for him, we will do,” Nugent added. “Every little bit helps.”

Shelton police policy calls for personnel to be clean shaven, but Chief Shawn Sequeira relaxed the rules this year as officers chose to use the No Shave November opportunity to show support to their friend and colleague.

Lt. Brian Yerzak organized the department’s No Shave November, where members donated $100 for a beard, $50 for a goatee and $25 for a mustache. But no matter how much facial hair the officers now have, Yerzak said each put $100 in the pot.

These officers can donate $50 and maintain their facial hair through December, but Yerzak said, come Jan. 1, it’s back to clean shaven once again.

“It’s a great cause, he’s a good guy, they are a great family,” Officer Chris Brosz said. “We’re trying to get as much money as we can to help him.”

Yerzak said this is the first time in his 16 years on the force that the department has participated in No Shave November.

“We haven’t known Rich a long time, which says a lot about him,” Detective Richard Bango said. “It’s been such a short time and yet everyone banded together. It’s for a good cause, and it is fun growing a beard. We’re not allowed to do this normally, but hopefully it can stay.”

On the GoFundMe page, McMahon stated that Van Tine is “a strong warrior and bravely fighting this battle with cancer.” McMahob added that worrying about his family’s financial security has weighed on Van Time and “sometimes feels unbearable.”

“Rich has always provided for his family and the inability to work these past several months is one of the most difficult challenges he is facing,” McMahon wrote. “He has served his city with pride and true care and concern for the residents of Shelton. It is imperative for a person of Rich’s caliber to receive recognition not only for his career, but for the outstanding person he is.”