Wednesday, February 24, 2016

End of Watch 1/17/16

Last week I wrote two posts on about my brother-in-law Doug's death.  I'm glad I posted them there, but it's been difficult to link to them as I have to explain how to display them properly and then link to both individually.  So I decided to combine them here for ease of sharing or referring to later.  You can still visit the Imgur pages to see the amazing comments from over a thousand strangers.  Here is what I wrote when I linked to them on Facebook:

Last night I wrote two posts about my experience with Doug's passing. I didn't realize this would happen, but there was a big response and there have been over 18,000 likes on the posts, and over a thousand really sweet comments. Erika suggested I post them to her wall so others could see.

This is the first post:
*When you get to the bottom of the pictures you have to click on "load remaining 14 images" to see the full post.

This is the second post:
*At the bottom of the pictures you'll want to click on "load remaining 7 images" to see the end.

Here are the posts as the appear on

Last month on a Sunday morning, my brother in law, Doug Barney, was shot while responding to the scene of an accident.  He died a few hours later in the hospital.  Another police office was shot in the leg and survived.

I'm writing this because I want to talk about it.  I guess I'm still processing what happened.  Honestly it's really hard to believe he's really gone.  I also want to talk about what kind of man Doug was.

Doug had been a cop for 18 years and was a credit to his profession.  I realize that there are a lot of serious issues right now with law enforcement, and I have to say that Doug embodied exactly what a police officer should be.  

There have been so many amazing tributes from fellow police officers and law enforcement around the country, but I just want to talk for a moment about the man that I knew as a family member.

The best way I think I can describe Doug is that he was a lot like Steve Irwin.  He was passionate about his career, he was excellent at what he did, and he was probably the most charismatic person I've ever met.  I mentioned this to my sister and a few friends a few nights after his death and we laughed so hard we cried while we did impressions of the "American Cop" Steve Irwin.  "Crikey!  Look at the size of this perp!  He had a rap sheet THIS long!"

Doug was a gifted storyteller and his job gave him endless material to talk about at family parties or even just driving together in the car.  Everyone sort of stopped what they were doing when he started a story so we could listen and laugh our heads off.

Back in the day we had some Ghost Recon LAN parties with Doug. Such good memories.  Pretty much if you were in a room with Doug, you were laughing at something he said.

Doug was amazing with kids.  He had a genuine love for them and an ability to make them feel like they were the coolest and most special person in the room, even when 15 other kids were running around.  I was 12 years old when Doug married my sister and I got to experience this first hand.  Doug was an instant hero.

More than anything, Doug loved to hold babies.  If there was a baby in the room, he begged to hold it.  If he went to church he'd ask any family with a new baby if he could hold it.  You can imagine how magical having his own children was/having a dad like that was.

This is Doug getting a hug from his shy niece Ella.  He had begged her for a half hour, and finally started offering her money to give him a hug!  We were all in tears laughing by the time he got to five dollars and she ran up and gave him a big hug!  She's 11 years old now, and still has that five dollar bill. 

This is Doug holding my baby girl when she was one month old in 2010.

Doug was a car guy.  A passionate car guy.  His father was a mechanic and Doug picked up a lot from him growing up.  He had a magical ability to be able to tell the make and model and year number of almost any car from even long distances.  He helped everyone in the family go car shopping (two of my three cars he went with me to get, including my first car).  

My son, who is three years old now, is also a passionate car guy.  He loves cars more than anything in the world, and at family parties he would run to Doug and sit on his lap to show him whatever Hot Wheels car he happened to be holding at the time.  Of course Doug knew exactly what kind of car it was and they would talk about how fast it could go!  Being a police officer, Doug naturally hooked my son up with awesome police car action!  He did this for all the nieces and nephews but for my son it was better than a trip to Disneyland.

More than anything, Doug loved his family.  

And oh boy, did he love my sister.  Through their whole marriage, no one ever doubted his love for her.  You could be as sure of it as the sun rising in the east.  Erika matched him in her love back.

Doug also struggled with bladder cancer for over a decade.  Several years ago he had to have his bladder completely removed and a "neobladder" was made from part of his lower intestine.  We all hoped this was the end, but after awhile he developed pain in his bladder that was so bad he couldn't function anymore.  They had to remove it and he had a bag that hung on the outside of his stomach to collect urine.

He hated that bag.  It was a pain in the ass, it grossed him out, and he couldn't whip his gun out from his hip like the other cops!  He wanted to look cool!  As much as he hated it he wouldn't hesitate to yell at me, "Come look at the hole into my stomach!!!" if I ever asked about it.

Doug had a lot of close calls with his life through the years with cancer, many surgeries, and frequent infections that were serious enough to be life threatening.  This is a post he put on Facebook after the neobladder was removed.  It's a bit heart wrenching to read now.

A lot of the newspaper headlines claimed he was shot while "working overtime to pay off medical bills."  This really bothered my sister because it wasn't quite accurate.  He had worked overtime the day before - an 18 hour day, actually, but the shift he was working that morning was his regular shift.  She also felt bad that they were exploiting the medical bill angle.  "Everyone has medical bills," she said.  We told her that ours were nothing compared to hers.  She told us she had been paying $6000 every six months to pay off their deductible.  After being horrified into silence for a moment, we told her that was not a normal expense at all.  She shrugged and said, "That's weird.  It was just normal for us."  At the time Doug died he was working consistent 80 hour weeks.

Like I said before, Doug was a credit to his profession and everything that police officers stand for.  He also loved what he did!!

I remember Cops being his favorite show for the first two years of their marriage, until he became a police officer and could experience it all for real.

This was a comment we found on one of the news articles about Doug's death.  It's from someone who Doug arrested, and I think it's a good representation of the kind of man Doug was.

The thing that pains me the most, and strikes me as incredibly ironic, is that if this man who shot Doug had instead turned around and spoken to him, that Doug could have helped him change his life.  Doug wasn't the pig enemy that this guy thought he was shooting.  He was compassionate and could relate to anyone, no matter their circumstances.

My sister spoke at the funeral.  Unusual for the widow to speak, but we were all blown away by what she said.  It was one of the most profound moments of my life listening to her.  You can watch the whole thing on YouTube if you search for Erika Barney, but these quotes were my very favorite.

Erika spoke mostly to the law enforcement officers gathered.  Within two days of Doug's death, she accepted friend requests from over 400 people on Facebook (pretty much all law enforcement), and the messages of love and support poured in.  She said their words were the most comforting thing to her during that time, I think because she felt like they understood this risk that Doug had taken more than anyone else.

Part 2

I took a screen shot of these texts because the time stamps kind of amazed me.  Erika's five siblings and mom all arrived at the hospital within minutes of each other.  My brother and I were the last to arrive and when we approached the group, they told us we were going up to say goodbye.  We hadn't even known how bad it was beyond that he was shot in the head.  I know that's pretty much a death sentence, but sometimes people do survive it and the whole drive there we were hoping, hoping, hoping.

My sister Erika worked as a 911 Dispatch operator for two years.  I think working so closely with emergencies for so long helped to prepare her a little bit for this.  She has been very collected and level headed through everything, including those minutes in the hospital.  I'm so grateful to everyone who helped to keep Doug's heart beating so that we could get there and he could be surrounded by family when he died.  If anyone reading this was involved, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

After the hospital we took the kids home and sat together to see the press conference about the shooting.  We still didn't have a great idea of what the hell had happened.  It's very weird, though, to get updates about a situation like this from the news.  You can see everyone on their phones in this picture.

They told Erika that she couldn't have the funeral in a church building as is normal for our family.  They said we'd probably have to have it in an arena and we were all astounded.  Erika shouted, "None of us is ever going to go out this big!!"  We all laughed.  Laughter is a big part of our family dynamic and part of what brings us all together.  

Having such a big profile funeral was really weird.  It was also overwhelming, in a good way.  There were benefits and drawbacks.  Overwhelming support and love from the community, but almost no opportunity to feel anything privately.

Still, our family is so, so grateful for the outpouring of love, for all the officers who came and showed support.  Thank you, thank you for being there.

The procession to the graveside was one of the best parts of the day.  Every single overpass was crowded with fire trucks and men and women in uniform, saluting the casket as it went by.  Even people on the other side of the freeway pulled over to watch us go by.  I saw trucks stopped and their drivers standing outside, saluting.  So many civilians also came out and lined the streets, thousands of people, many holding signs saying Thank you to Doug.  

They told us that the procession stretched over 50 miles and took over an hour to pass.  

The other office who was shot, John Richey, carried the Honor Flag to the graveside and held it as all the ceremonial stuff took way.  He was an incredibly sweet man and a real comfort to all of us.The other office who was shot, John Richey, carried the Honor Flag to the graveside and held it as all the ceremonial stuff took way.  He is an incredibly sweet man and a real comfort to all of us.

This will go on Doug's headstone sometime in May.

"How's your sister doing?"

I get this question several times a day.  Erika is a rock.  Through all of this she has been graceful, poised, elegant, and composed.  She spent the days immediately after Doug's death greeting a million visitors in her home, including the governor and several mayors and police chiefs (the senator got stuck on the east coast due to a storm).  She went to dispatch to speak with the workers who were on duty when Doug was shot.  Then she went to the Huntsman Cancer Institute to speak with the doctors who have spent over a decade trying to keep Doug alive.  She said, "I figure they feel like they got pretty jipped."  Yup.

She even went to see this sweet woman whose photo went viral.

And she got a commendation from the governor this week.  She's been told by the widows of two other police officers who were killed in the line of duty that big things like this happen at least once a week for about a year, so she's preparing herself for the long haul. 

This has all been so public - and she's a figure in the community now. She gets calls from the press wanting her opinion on things in the news. There aren't a lot of moments to be alone and process what happened.

But there is a bright side to having so many people want to help

A few days after Doug's death Erika asked on Facebook if any officers would want to come to Jack's (Doug's 13 year old son) next hockey game.  They showed up in the hundreds.  It was a wonderful, positive experience.

And nobody loved it more than Jack.

Today is one month from the day Doug was shot, and also Doug and Erika's 20th wedding anniversary.  Despite being so busy, I know she is sad, I know she is feeling this.  

Our whole family is feeling this.  We are close, and we are heartbroken to have lost Doug.  He leaves such a huge hole in our family.

But I'm so grateful that Doug was in our lives.  That's what I whispered to him at the side of his hospital bed, "Thank you, thank you."  Thank you for loving my sister.  Thank you for being amazing to my children.  Thank you for all the joy and laughter over the years.  Thank you for teaching me so much.  I love you and I'll miss you, Doug.

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