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'The greatest honor of his life'

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.

"There's nobody quite like Doug," his brother, Brian Barney, said while delivering the eulogy.

Even when they were children, Brian Barney said his brother's power of persuasion got his siblings in trouble more than once, whether it was convincing someone to eat a lizard "for strength" or jumping off the roof of a two-story home into an 8-foot swimming pool.

"(His ideas were) exciting and perfectly sane when Doug would explain it," he said.

Brian Barney ended his eulogy visibly shaken and in tears. "Doug, miss you brother," he said.

Erika Barney was poised and collected as she spoke about her husband, and even exhibited the same type of humor her husband was known for.

"I thought Doug was kind of weird. Now I think you're all kind of weird," she told the law enforcers gathered at the Maverik Center, explaining that she realized there were a lot of officers who had similar personalities to her husband and shared his passion for law enforcement.

When Doug Barney was about to go on sick leave for cancer treatment, Erika Barney recalled how her husband encouraged her to become a police dispatcher so they could get more health insurance.

"Yeah, you're bossy just like all the dispatchers," she recalled him telling her.

After 18 years of law enforcement, Erika Barney said she had "seen the good and the bad and everything in between." But she also knows "this career brought out the very best in him."

Doug Barney had a knack for finding stolen cars and loved the adrenaline of a high-speed chase, his wife said. But he also used his gut instinct to help save lives on more than one occasion, and his compassion to stay strong for others. Law enforcement typically comes in contact with people at their worst moments, Erika Barney said, and her husband recognized that.

Bertram also praised Erika Barney at Monday's service, calling her Doug's "saint" and noting that over the past week, even in the police department's "darkest hour," she remained "a example of strength to everyone."

After his love of his family and service came his love of cars. Many recalled how Doug Barney could fix any vehicle and often helped friends when they had car problems.

Bertram said Doug Barney's ability to deal with people made him an excellent officer.

"It was how Doug treated people. It was his character, and that set him apart from others," he said. "Doug's legacy is his passion for service, his compassion toward everyone, his dedication to his law enforcement family and his perpetual love for his family.

When an officer was dispatched to a call, they always hoped Doug Barney was their backup, Bertram said.

"He was a master of his trade. He dedicated his life to this department and to his brothers and sisters in blue," he said.

Bertram said Doug Barney's eternal assignment was to watch over his family, and he now was having roll call "in the most perfect precinct of them all."

"I am honored to call you my friend. Doug, I miss you. I love you, and I salute you for your bravery. … You will always be my hero," Bertram said.

American flags were set up around the Maverik Center and along the streets leading to the arena. Blue ribbons were tied around the trees outside. On the marquee that typically advertises hockey games and concerts was a message honoring "Our Fallen Hero" with the date of his end of watch: Jan. 17, 2016.

Flags and blue ribbons also lined many of the city streets along the 53-mile funeral procession route to Orem. Law enforcers from various agencies stood and saluted on overpasses as the hearse drove south along I-15. It took more than an hour from the time the first vehicle arrived at the cemetery until the last one pulled into the parking lot.

The U.S. Honor Flag — an American flag that has been used since Sept. 11, 2001, to honor fallen police officers, firefighters and members of the military — has been with Doug Barney's body since Thursday. The purpose of the flag is to bring healing to the officer's family and the police agency he represented.

"This is a single flag that's done so many things. And it's important that we continue to move that flag from place to place when it's appropriate to honor someone who has made the ultimate sacrifice," said Chris Heisler, co-founder of the U.S. Honor Flag. "It's an incredible flag. It's one that represents the integrity, loyalty and selfless service of our men and women who go every day to work not knowing if they're going to come back home. And they do it without hesitation."

Law enforcers from across the nation were in attendance at Monday's funeral. Some officers originally expected to attend were unable to make it because of the blizzard that has socked the East Coast. Others, however, were able to make the journey. New York Police Department's 113th Precinct tweeted Sunday, "Supporting our Brothers in Blue tonight in memory of PO Doug Barney."

Accounts to help the Barney and Richey families with funeral and medical expenses have been set up at America First Credit Union under the Doug Barney Memorial Account and the Jon Richey Charitable Account. Donations can also be made by calling the bank at 800-999-3961.

Contributing: Peter Samore


Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam