WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Friends, family, and the community of Officer Doug Barney gathered inside the LDS Statek Center in West Valley City on Sunday to honor his life.
While the loss of a loved one is never easy, inside you wouldn’t find any sadness, rather you’d find a celebration.
“That’s the way he would want it. He wouldn’t want all the fanfare and sadness. He would want a party and everybody here having fun and smiling,” said Lt. Lex Bell with Unified Police and a close friend of Ofc. Barney.
American Flags strung all across the entrance, with blue ribbons tied to every post, tree, and fence. As hundreds filed in to pay their respects to a fallen hero killed in action a week ago.
“Watching our community come together as it has is something that I will never forget,” says Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder.
Kay Hawkes is a close to the Barney family. She’s been a neighbor to them for five years and will always remember a wonderful man and officer. “He was loved by so many,” she says. “You just felt close to him and you felt the love that he had for his fellow man and we feel the same for his family,” she adds.
Police officers both locally and nationally came to pay their respects to one of their own.
“Moments ago I was speaking with New York City Police Officers and Chicago Police Officers, in addition to that, many of our retired members that have flown in specifically for this event…I think that is indicative of the kind of support we are seeing and it is doing amazing things for our department, and for the Barney family,” says Sheriff Winder.
But, Officer Barney’s passing has also been felt beyond our borders, affecting law enforcement from around the world.
“I came to give the family my condolences because I know what it’s like to have a companion fall fulling their mission,” says Juan Andrade, a police officer and volunteer firefighter from Venezuela.
Juan adds, “He’s a brother in arms, a colleague, it’s a brotherhood around the world. From every corner and we need to have that unity. This is a hard time…He gave his life for the greater good, for his family and for his country. He’s a true hero. A hero to this country. May God forever keep him in glory.”
Inside stories were shared of Officer Barney, most with a common theme; his humor.
“Doug. More so than any other was a gentleman that managed his job through humor. He was the guy we all knew when things got tense he could joke long enough with someone to resolve the situation,” says Sheriff Winder.
His family drawing strength from the kindness of the world.
“I think it’s important to recognize that individuals that are faith based, regardless of what that is – it’s amazing to watch how they will in tough times – they can use that very much as a rock. I look in Erica Barney’s eyes and I automatically know that her faith is going to carry her and her family through this and that’s not something all of us have. Those that do, I envy,” says Winder.
And in turn Officer Barney’s family in blue is drawing strength from his family.
“I’ve felt a little rejuvenated. After talking to Erica, she’s so positive and so strong it’s actually amazing. I wish we were all as strong as she is. So, I’ve gathered a lot of strength from her,” says Lt. Bell.
Tonight, as they share memories of his life, his fellow officers are keeping him close to their heart. 96K, his police identifier wrapped around their badges with a single black band, as they prepare to say goodbye to their friend.
“I hope that people begin to focus less on the events of Sunday and more on the idea that law enforcement has its problems, but it certainly is an important institution in our society and you all have had the opportunity over the last few days to really see a human being, and that human being happens to wear a uniform. That’s what I want us to be focused on in our community. Police men need to be not viewed as a person in a uniform but a soul, and a heart, and a family, and all that, and when we do that, a lot of these other tensions in our community, I think will begin to end,” says Sheriff Winder.
Sheriff Winder and Lt. Bell say the family has been overwhelmed with the love and support from their community and from strangers. People bringing them food, necessities; law enforcement agencies presenting them with checks and money to help them get by. And Sheriff Winder adds their department has been overwhelmed by the volunteer officers offering to help them in every capacity as they say prepare to say goodbye.