“I don’t think it’s set in yet,” said Staff Sgt. Boyd Merrill, who was O’Keefe’s direct supervisor and worked closely with him for several years.
“It’s hard to believe.”
Merrill was one of many people around the province left shocked and saddened by O’Keefe’s death.
He knew O’Keefe for the more than a dozen years O’Keefe was on the force, and said he was a kind man with a big heart.
“Most people would give you the shirt off their backs. Trevor would take you to the mall and help you pick one out,” said Merrill, adding that O’Keefe often helped fundraise for various charities.
“If he heard a member was in a hard spot, out came the wallet. He’d do anything for anyone.
“He was generous to a fault. He was often criticized for his caring nature and compassion, which may have sidetracked him from parts of his work.”
O’Keefe started at the RCMP working in the mailroom as a public servant more than a dozen years ago. After training and joining the force shortly afterward, he was initially stationed in Clarenville before moving to Bell Island and then St. John’s, where he worked in media relations under Merrill’s mentorship for the past 18 months.
“Wherever he went, he always wanted to be close to his son, Liam,” Merrill said. “He was a very proud father.”
Despite the many challenges in the media position, O’Keefe was always upbeat and fun-loving, Merrill said.
“Oh, I could tell you a bunch of funny stories about Trevor,” he said. “He was always acting out, acting the fool. I had a job to find one picture of him where he didn’t have some kind of foolish face on. He was a real prankster.
“It was nothing for him to strip down to his underwear for the polar dip if it meant raising money for something.”
Merrill said O’Keefe dealt with many horrific cases in his years of service, which he believes took a toll on him.
“He’s seen his share of tragedy,” Merrill said.
O’Keefe was the lead investigator in a tragic fire on Bell Island, where three children perished in 2008.
He was also one of the first RCMP officers on the scene after the shooting of Donald Dunphy, who was killed on Easter Sunday in 2015 at his home in Mitchell’s Brook by RNC officer Joe Smyth, who was a member of the then-premier’s security detail.
The incident led to the three-month-long Dunphy Inquiry, in which O’Keefe was one of the officers who was scrutinized and was subject to long and grueling questioning.
“The extreme lengths they went to in questioning at that inquiry impacted him and many of our other officers as well,” Merrill said. “I saw a big effect on many officers, including Trevor, after that.”
Merrill said O’Keefe was a good police officer, “who knew how to apply the principles of law and order.”
But when asked what will be the first thing to come to his mind when he thinks of O’Keefe years down the road, Merrill said, “His big shit-eating grin.”
Wabana Mayor Gary Gosine also shared his fond memories of O’Keefe with The Telegram.
“When he first moved to Bell Island, I brought him homemade cooked dinner,” said Gosine. “He quickly became a very close friend of mine.”
When tragedy struck the island in 2008, O’Keefe went above and beyond to help the community, Gosine said.
“He worked for 35 hours straight during that fire. I begged him to go home and rest. But that’s just the kind of guy he was … always dedicated to the community.”
Bradley Power was working with the Fire Commissionaires office when he first met O’Keefe that tragic night on Bell Island.
“My first impression of him was that he was capable and confident,” Power said. “Even on that night, he managed to be the calm voice of reason while taking charge of the scene.
“It was truly tragic hearing of his passing this morning. He was respected by all and truly put the community before himself. People like him are few and far between.”