HAVERSTRAW, N.Y. -- A popular strongman competitor and former Haverstraw and NYPD police officer shot and killed himself after a traffic stop Wednesday morning, a close friend confirmed.
It wasn't immediately clear why FBI agents pulled over the Chevy Suburban driven by Gerard Benderoth, 48, at the corner of Rosman Road and Langschur Court at 8:20 a.m.
Law enforcement sources cited his close friendship with Nicholas Tartaglione, a former Briarcliff Manor police officer and fellow weight lifter accused last year in a quadruple drug murder.
"Everyone is shocked. He was a great guy," a longtime friend told Daily Voice. "Hugely popular in town."
A GoFundMe account has been established for the Benderoth family. CLICK HERE....
Word spread quickly through town and through the pro strength community ( see post below ).
Benderoth spent a decade with the NYPD and was among the responders to the 9/11 attacks. He remained at Ground Zero for three straight days recovering bodies.
Nicknamed "The White Rhino," the 370-pound Benderoth finished among the leaders in the America's Strongest Man competition three years in a row, from 2006-2008.
After moving to the Haverstraw police department, he retired last year. He and his family lived in Stony Point.
A string of tributes flowed on Facebook as news spread Wednesday, including this one from Matt Hand:
Dear Strength Sports Athletes,
"Please acknowledge that we have lost a legend in the strength world. Gerard Benderoth was a real life super hero. One of the strongest people ever to walk this earth regardless of sport. More importantly please acknowledge that Gerard was a real life hero. A police officer for the finest force in the world, the NYPD.
"He was an example of the finest qualities of this country, and one of the true heroes at ground zero in the nation's darkest hour of 9/11. I was so proud to brag about this guy as my friend.
"What a great man, please keep his family in your thoughts in this time of grief.
"Goodbye my friend, I will be lucky to be half the man you were in all aspects of your life. #RealLifeSuperHero #nypd"