MEDINA TWP. — Andria Velez, surviving daughter of Ohio Highway Patrol Trooper Kenneth Velez, stood up in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court on Sept. 8 and forgave the man who killed her father.
“My parents have taught me to never hate anybody,” Velez, 22, said Tuesday at the Medina County Bluecoats’ annual dinner, where she was the keynote speaker.
“I can’t hold hatred in my heart. When my dad first passed away, I was at a very low point in my life. I knew he would not want me to live life that way.
“I had to think about how I could make myself happier. I had to let go of any hate and sadness in my heart. It has really helped me live a much happier life. It saved me. It’s a great healing process. I mean what I say.”
Joshua Gaspar, 37, was behind the wheel on Interstate 90 near McKinley Avenue in February when his car hit and killed Trooper Velez.
Gaspar was sentenced to one year in jail after he was found guilty on misdemeanor charges of falsification and tampering with records. He also was fined $1,000 and received a one-year suspended license.
A jury acquitted the Columbia Station man of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs. He had taken prescription methadone prior to the crash.
Velez, a senior at Kent State University, said her father always will be her greatest hero.
“This has been the toughest year of our life,” she told those gathered at Weymouth Country Club. “With the support of my family and organizations like the Bluecoats, we were able to get to a point I never thought was possible.
“A year ago, I thought my life was over. My heart had never been so broken. I thought I’d never be happy again.”
The Amherst native said she now appreciates the small things in life.
“I’m so grateful for everyone in it,” she said. “I live life to the fullest. You never know when your last day is.”
Velez said she mistakenly tried to call her father last week.
“I miss him more than you can imagine,” she said. “Because of faith, I know I’ll see him again. When it’s my turn, he’ll yell, ‘Andria!’ with big open arms like he did every time I walked through the door.
“I had no idea how I was going to get through this. I was daddy’s little girl and he was taken from me.”
She said Bluecoats of Cleveland helped her family immensely. The nonprofit organization provides financial assistance and other services to families of police, firefighters and law enforcement officers who lose their lives or become permanently disable in the line of duty.
“The Bluecoats reached out right after he died and helped in ways that aren’t explainable,” Velez said. “First of all, financially, the Bluecoats have been there every step of the way. I know for a fact my family would not have been able to get through the initial shock and immediate financial demands of my dad passing without their help. They helped cover funeral expenses.”
She said the Bluecoats also helped emotionally.
“If it weren’t for the Bluecoats, I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am in school right now,” she said. “I was working two jobs to keep up with expenses of attending university.”
Now, she’s able to focus on her studies.
“I’ve always thought my calling has been to help others,” she said.
In court, she appealed to Gaspar to “clean yourself up. No more drugs. You may have taken my father’s life, but this gives you the opportunity to save yourself and others.
“If you got the worst punishment, that would not bring my father back. If I would live my life with hatred in my heart, I would be unhappy for the rest of my life. I forgive you. I pray you find the help you need, learn from your mistakes, pay it forward by helping others, so that my dad’s life mattered.”
Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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