Unified Police Department
Unified police officer Doug Barney, an 18-year police veteran, was shot and killed Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, after locating a man who had just been involved in a traffic accident.

HOLLADAY — Doug Barney became a police officer for one reason: to help others.

At 6 feet 5 inches tall with a broad physique and curly red hair, Barney was tough to miss, Unified Police Lt. Lex Bell said Sunday. But what made him stand out even more was his big personality.

"He was such a loving and happy and good person, always asking how you're doing. Every time you see him he makes a joke, slaps you on the back, and just makes you feel good," Bell said. "That's just Doug, a boisterous, funny, caring, big old teddy bear of a man."

An 18-year veteran of law enforcement, Barney died Sunday at the age of 45 after being shot by a man who police say had just been involved in a hit-and-run accident in Holladay. He is the first officer killed in the line of duty nationwide so far in 2016, as well as the first officer killed in the Unified Police Department since its formation in 2010, Bell said.

Above all, Bell will remember Barney as a dedicated husband and father. Any moment he wasn't working, Bell said, he spent with his wife and three now-teenage children.

"That's all he did. When he wasn't at work, he was playing with his kids, and he just loved it," Bell said. "Everything was about his family."

Barney's career as an officer was interrupted several times over a dozen years for chemotherapy and surgery as he battled bladder cancer, but he was eager to return to work each time the cancer went into remission, Bell said. With his latest victory over the disease, Barney had again returned to the department to continue serving in a job he loved while making money his family needed to cover his medical costs.

Barney was working overtime Sunday, Bell said, having volunteered for extra time in order to make money to pay for the cancer treatments.

"His family has dealt with the possibility that they could lose their dad for 12 years, and he was in remission again and doing well. He was back to his old self, his color was good, and he was laughing and slapping you on the back again. And then they lose him to a bullet," Bell said.

Bell first met Barney when in the police academy, and the two were hired by the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office on the same day: Jan. 1, 2000. Having already worked at the Salt Lake County Jail, Barney was on an accelerated track in the academy, and when the two officers were assigned as partners in their first patrol job, Bell was grateful for Barney's guidance and previous experience as an officer.

"We basically only had each other for the next several years, we had a lot of fun out there on graveyards," he recalled.

In those early years together, the two talked often about why they became police officers. For Barney, the answer was simply to help others.

"He told me he got into this profession because he loved helping people," the lieutenant said. "He wanted to make a difference and be there for people who needed help. He loved kids, and no matter where we went, everyone knew officer Barney."

Barney spent several years as a resource officer for Eisenhower Junior High School in Taylorsville, while assigned to the newly formed Taylorsville Police Department.

"We lost a hero," the Granite School District tweeted Sunday.

While at Eisenhower, Barney's cancer returned, and in 2010 the school's students rallied to organize a schoolwide dodgeball tournament to raise money for the officer's treatment. They called it "Battle for Barney," raising $1,200 in a matter of hours.

At the time, Barney told KSL how much he appreciated the fact that the children he had committed himself to care for were now doing the same for him.

"I've always known these kids were great kids," Barney said. "I see them in the hall, and their sign for me is, 'I'm watching you.' And so now they're doing that same thing. They're watching over me."

News of Barney's death echoed through Utah and beyond on Sunday, with condolences pouring in from around the country. Community members reached out to thank officers, even coming by the scene of Sunday's events to offer hot cocoa or leave candles and flowers.

In the law enforcement community, pledges of support were made on social media by law enforcement agencies around the state and nationwide. When the time came to transport Barney's body from Intermountain Medical Center to the Utah State Medical Examiner's Office, the fallen officer was accompanied by a long line of police vehicles from several agencies, all with their lights and sirens sounding.

Bell praised the strength of Barney's wife and children Sunday night, pledging the support of Barney's law enforcement family.

"We'll be there for them," he promised.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: McKenzieRomero