'The greatest honor of his life'

Published: Monday, Jan. 25 2016 10:15 a.m. MST

Flags surround the Maverik Center as people arrive for the funeral of Unified police officer Doug Barney at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. Barney was killed in the line of duty on Jan. 17, 2016.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

WEST VALLEY CITY — Doug Barney used to spend a lot of time looking at the Utah Fallen Officers Memorial Web page, his widow, Erika Barney recalled Monday.

"I didn't understand it. I thought it was kind of morbid," she said. "How can you do the job after depressing yourself?"

But when Erika Barney became an emergency dispatcher for the Unified Police Department while her husband was on sick leave, she said that's when she truly learned that all police officers — no matter what uniform they wear — are one.

"I feel like I understand now. I feel like I get it. I understand why you look at the Officer Down Memorial page before you strap on your vest and call 'on duty.' It's because you need to accept the cost in order to be able to serve. And that commitment isn't made just once, but over and over and over again," she said.

As Erika Barney spoke before thousands of law enforcers who traveled from across the nation to pay their respects to the veteran officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty, it was she who offered thanks.

"I love Doug. I never doubted his love for me. I know this is the greatest honor of his life," she said. "I'm so proud of him. … I'm proud of you from the bottom of my heart. I thank you for your service."

Doug Barney, an 18-year veteran police officer and a cancer survivor, was working an overtime shift a week ago Sunday morning to help pay for medical expenses. Barney was shot and killed while looking for a man who left the scene of a traffic accident at 2160 E. 4500 South. His partner, officer Jon Richey, was also shot, with one bullet going through both his legs.

Richey was in attendance Monday along with thousands of other officers who gathered at the Maverik Center to honor the fallen Unified police officer.

But the most touching moment came after the funeral service had just concluded. As the crowd started to file out, Doug Barney's 13-year-old son, Jack, walked to his father's American flag-draped casket, leaned over it — at one point resting his head on it — and then glided his hand along the flag. He then folded his arms, possibly saying a prayer.

Jack Barney stood alone with his father's casket for a minute or two until an adult walked over to the boy and put his arm around him to make sure he was OK. The casket was then taken to the waiting hearse to be driven to the interment.

Later, at the interment in Orem, Jack was at the front of the pallbearers as they wheeled his father's casket to its final resting spot.

At the Orem City Cemetery, hundreds of officers stood saluting as Doug Barney's body arrived at the gravesite. He was given a 21-gun salute, three helicopters flew in the missing man formation over his gravesite, and emergency dispatchers gave him his "final call," marking the end of watch for the longtime officer.

Unified Police officers all had a black bands over their badges with Doug Barney's dispatch number, "96K," written on them.

To many, Doug Barney was known as a man who was larger than life, both with his imposing 6-foot-5 frame and his personality.

"Nothing Doug did was small or quiet," Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said.

"Doug possessed a personality that stepped in a room long before he did," recalled his longtime friend, retired Unified Police Lt. Chris Bertram.

Many at the funeral recalled Doug Barney's humor and his propensity for dealing with all people, treating them as equals whether they were co-workers or someone he was taking to jail.

From his unique way of greeting everyone with a crooked smile and hearty "what's up, brotha?!" to his passion for service, Barney was remembered by all as a giant man with a gentle heart.

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