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The City Journals

With Heavy Hearts Holladay Turns Heartbreak to Healing

Mar 09, 2016 12:31PM ● By Bryan Scott

Cottonwood - Holladay - Residents of Holladay, the state and our nation have heard about fallen Officer Barney, wounded Officer Richey and the events that unfolded the week of Jan. 17, 2016. Holladay, the sleepy bedroom town experienced a not so sleepy incident that no one could or can believe. How could a shooting like this happen right here? From the moment of the car accident on 4500 South 2300 East, to the two individuals who were seen leaving their car at the scene, to a search that ensued for the driver and passenger, to just minutes later in a nearby neighborhood an officer shot down and another wounded. Quick action by the Unified Police Department for the City of Holladay and other units were upon the scene taking down the gunman, subduing his mother and step brother to prevent further chaos on a peaceful Sunday morning. The neighborhood in a lockdown to protect residents and to control the situation was fast realizing that a serious situation was in progress. The event unfolding in a quiet suburban cul-de-sac claimed the life of an outstanding 18-year veteran law enforcement officer, Doug Barney (age 44) survived by wife Erika, their three children, Matilda, 18 (Matti), Meredith, 16 (Merri), and Jacob, 13 (Jack), and left 30-year law enforcement officer Jon Richey with bullet wounds to his legs and gunman Cory Lee Henderson dead.

This case is being investigated by the Salt Lake City Police Department and Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office as part of the Officer Involved Critical Incident Protocol and information will be reported as it becomes available. However, this story will attempt to recap events and remind all of us that from tragedy comes the unconditional love and support and that there is more good than evil in this world as shown by Holladay and surrounding communities. Local residents and citizens unified to demonstrate an unprecedented wave of compassion and countless unconditional acts of kindness to respect Officers Barney and Richey, their families and honor all of the women and men across our nation who take on the oath and promise to serve and protect. The City of Holladay lined the streets along 2300 East with hundreds flags and blue ribbons, flags at half-staff and local signs posted in remembrance of Barney.

A few brief comments about Officer Barney that was mentioned over and over again by anyone interviewed are the same. A good man, husband, father and son – a larger than life presence, used humor in whatever he was doing on and off the job, loved working on cars and had a zest for life. His former boss Chief Bertram from the City of Holladay said, “What Doug would want to be remembered as: that distinctive ‘Doug’ personality, his humor, whatever your favorite Doug saying was ‘My Brotha’ with a pat on the back and how he brightened up your day no matter what was going on in his life.” That’s just the kind of  person he was, even battling through cancer for a number of years. He was always eager to get back on the job, brought humor to the situation and, as he recovered, always eager to return to work. So it was not unusual that Officer Barney picked up an extra shift to help offset medical bills that particular Sunday morning. 

As word of the news came to the Holladay Mayor Rob Dahle that Sunday morning, Jan. 17 he recalled, “I was in the middle of drafting my February newsletter article when I took the call I never wanted to receive. Unified Police Sheriff Jim Winder informed me that there was an auto accident at 4500 South and 2300 East.” With the information relayed to Mayor Dahle, he then received another call saying, “The next call came from a resident in the abutting neighborhood. A single shot was heard coming from the direction of his driveway and that an officer was down. Initial reports indicate that Officer Barney’s service weapon was holstered.” Mayor Dahle also noted in a published letter, “We live in a time when police service has been the subject of intense scrutiny. The pundits claim to have all the answers. They are quick to question the intentions and actions of our officers with little if any understanding of what it means to put on a uniform, say goodbye to loved ones, and nobly enter an environment in which the attitudes and actions of the very citizens they are sworn to protect can end their life with the squeeze of a trigger.”

The Holladay City staff did not hesitate  even through their grief to pull together and plan a special candlelight vigil held on Jan. 20 at 6 p.m. in the Commons area behind Holladay City Hall. Hundreds attended to honor Officer Barney and give the opportunity to his wife Erika Barney, three children, Doug’s brother and mother to say a few words. Residents and people from all over our state came to show their heartfelt respect – thousands attended where banners featuring Officer Barney hung, volunteers pinned on blue ribbons and readied all of the candles for attendees. One of many notable volunteers Senator Jani Iwamoto was eager to lend a hand and offered this: “Officer Doug Barney will be remembered for his ultimate sacrifice – protecting our residents.  Tonight’s vigil highlighted his positive and uplifting demeanor, and his commitment to family.  Holladay and communities throughout our state honor Officers Doug Barney and Jon Richey, and their families.”

As the vigil got underway with the Olympus High Madrigals opening with angelic voices followed Debbie Dujanovic – local KSL reporter, wife of former Chief Bertram and personal friend of the Barneys of many years – who graciously conducted the ceremony by introducing President Ngo, Mayor Rob Dahle, Sheriff Winder, former Holladay City Chief Bertram and U.P.D. and Holladay Chief Hutson. It was also remarkable to see Officer Richey accompanied by his wife Hannah and walking on his own accord just three days after his injuries offered his thoughts. Candlelight from as far as you could see lit the entire back of city hall, out to the street from north to south, while a procession of bagpipers playing “Amazing Grace” moved from back of city hall along the corridor to the podium under the covered gazebo. There was a range of emotions bouncing from heartbroken and sadness, to disbelief, to anger and frustration, but what prevailed was the celebration of life for Officer Barney, heartfelt compassion for the families, hugs and handshakes and an offering of unselfish help, support and love. All that was being said was taken to heart and reflected through the tearful eyes of hundreds of mourners. Mayor Dahle said his emotions “swing between profound sadness and extreme anger” by the events of the past week. “We gather tonight as a community, shocked and scarred by the senseless murder of Officer Douglas Barney. My hope is we can take this opportunity to be together as friends, neighbors and colleagues to begin a path toward healing.” Though heartbroken, the resilience in face of this tragedy was evident to all. Randy Fitts, Holladay City Manager commented, “Our hope was to deliver a peaceful, dignified and respectful gathering. I was proud of the citizens of Holladay in honoring and supporting the Barney family at the vigil.” At the close, a moment of silence commenced by the playing of “Going Home” which completed the program sung by Sgt. Glad. 

There were so many notable comments from all of the speakers who showed incredible composure, their love and friendship and thoughts of comradery including former words from Holladay Chief Bertram explained that this is what his fellow officer and friend would have said, “What I want others to remember about Doug is, no matter how bad things get, how hurt you may be, always keep a sense of humor and laugh…even at yourself.” Followed by U.P.D. Chief Hutson remarked, “Holladay City will not be defined by the fact this random event occurred within its borders, but will be remembered for how its citizens responded and became stronger as a result. The outpouring of support from Holladay City has been overwhelming and I would like to offer my most sincere personal thanks to everyone who provided support through deed, thought, and prayer.” Sherriff Jim Winder with tears in his eyes said, “We gotta quit looking for answers because there ain’t none. Look instead for selflessness and love.” And the most poignant remarks came from Erika herself standing with their son to thank everyone, saying she has not been left alone and let everyone know her appreciation was far reaching, grateful to know she had the strength of her family, her law enforcement family, friends and communities to help heal and lean on. “It just makes us feel lifted up and supported,” she said. She was a pillar of strength and inspiring for all in attendance, especially for her children. 

What was to follow over the next several days was nothing short of exceptional and community pulling together. Avenues to donate funds or services poured in from businesses or events such as: America First Credit Union under the Doug Barney Memorial Account and the Jon Richey Charitable Account or contact AFCU at 1-800-999-3961. And the co-founders of Salt Lake Comic Con set up a fundraiser to help the families of two Utah police officers. For every Salt Lake Comic Con FanX16 ticket sold on Jan. 19, 50 percent of the proceeds were donated. Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg have committed to donate a minimum of $2,500 to the families. Fans could also donate directly on the GrowTIX site and 100 percent went to the families. JetBlue offered free flights to law enforcement agencies and police departments across the nation who planned to attend the funeral. Other community members, specifically wives of fallen officers offered comfort to Erika Barney and Hannah Richey (the wife of the wounded officer) as Nanette Wride and Shante Johnson know firsthand what it’s like to lose their husbands in the line of duty. “Our first instinct is just to run to her and let her know you’re not alone, even though this really hurts,” Johnson said. Other community residents such as Janet Thorsted of Fruit Heights kindly posted on Facebook Jan. 21 that she had room for officers traveling from out of state to stay in her home to attend services. Many Utahns offered their homes to accommodate the more than 10,000 law enforcement officers expected for the funeral. 

And they did come – on Jan. 24, the public viewing took place at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Salt Lake Utah Hunter West Stake Center in West Valley City, Utah. Outside American flags and blue ribbons tied to trees and street signs. Inside, large floral displays, with arrangements in the shape like police badges and department emblems. The following day a funeral procession over 50 miles long beginning with services held at the Maverik Center, 3200 Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City, Utah traveling through parts of Salt Lake City, through Holladay past city hall and onto the interment located in the Orem City Cemetery.

Services at the Maverik Center were overwhelming with the sea of officers from all arms of law enforcement, fire departments, military branches and more. And not a dry eye in the house watching Barney’s son, brother, close family and friends escort the body of Officer Barney down the long aisle to the front of the podium. It also should be noted that since the officer’s death there had been a uniformed officer stationed by his body’s side. This day was no different.  Even at the hospital where Barney perished, his body was transported from the hospital to the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office on Sunday with a large police procession. Retired Unified Police Lt. Chris Bertram, one of Barney’s closest friends, was there as officers stood and saluted as his body was brought through the hospital hallway.

The command of attention and respect for Officer Barney and his family was a most respectful and profound service most people may ever witness. Barney’s brother Brian, with a clear but saddened voice said, “There was nobody quite like Doug. He was not only physically strong, 6’5”, but strong in persuasion.” He gave antidotal stories about their youth that gave all a moment to laugh. Comments from Chris Bertram that he will be missed and how he enjoyed decades of laughter and the way he brightened your day no matter what was going on. Bertram said, “‘I will always carry Doug with me. He was my brother and he is my hero.” Sherriff Winder showing a deep sense of pride and in trepidation in that, “nothing could prepare him for this day,” as he struggled for words in the gravity of the moment. And Governor Herbert who recognized the sacrifice officers makes every day and the ultimate price Doug paid with his life. He wanted all to know that the law enforcement family is the heart and soul of what makes this state great. And remarks from Erika Barney giving the audience several inside stories about how Doug had a knack for finding stolen vehicles, how he saved a teen’s life by having a hunch that this boy needed some help as he was alone and turns out needed medical attention. Had Officer Barney gone home after finishing his shift, the boy would most likely have perished in his sleep. She talked about how they discussed her joining on as dispatcher to help with medical bills, and that she wondered why he would even suggest that. Jokes were exchanged and the audience again laughed with Erika. She talked about his rounds with cancer and how he hated staying in bed. Erika closed by addressing the men and women in uniform by saying, “mourn together to be able to perform together. This is the greatest honor of Doug’s life and proud of all of you in blue and in uniform. Thank you for your service.”

As the procession left the Maverik Center and made its way towards Holladay, thousands lined the streets, waving flags, holding their hands to their hearts, waving on each and every officer and their precinct partners from across all of Utah’s counties, from other states including New York. Even a large bus noted the Barney’s memorial. Holladay City Hall staff and residents crowded the streets to pay their respects to every car. This went on for more than three hours. The procession was still passing long after the first vehicles had arrived in Orem for the interment. The generosity and humanity of the people of Holladay is inspiring. 

As a final note, Barney is the first U.S. police officer to be killed in the line of duty this year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit that tracks law enforcement officer deaths. The outpouring of concern, support and determination of law enforcement officers to keep our communities protected and to serve with humility is nothing short of grand gesture that we all should stop and pay gratitude towards.   

Photos by Carol Hendrycks