Douglas County

'It's up to us to remember him and to be like him'

Family and colleagues tell of slain deputy's humanity, zest for life at funeral service


Zackari Parrish was the type of deputy who would shield a child's eyes if a parent were being handcuffed. He took the lead in organizing a fundraiser for a colleague's wife who was battling cancer. He pulled over a man who was down on his luck and gave him money so that his family could spend the night in a hotel.

"That was Zack," explained Castle Rock Police Chief Jack Cauley at the funeral service for Parrish, a Douglas County deputy who was killed in the line of duty on New Year's Eve. "As we march forward to serve together, Zack will give us the strength to do the best we possibly can."

If there was ever a time to witness the brotherhood among law enforcement officers, it was the morning of Jan. 5 at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, where Parrish's funeral service was held. Hundreds of men and women wearing crisp black and blue uniforms with shiny gold badges assembled at the church to honor and remember the life of one of their own.

Parrish, 29, was responding to a domestic dispute at the Copper Canyon Apartments, 3380 E. County Line Road, in Highlands Ranch, the morning of Dec. 31 when he was shot and killed by Matthew Riehl. Four other law enforcement officers were wounded in what Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock called "an ambush-type of attack." Two civilians, who were not in the apartment, sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

Law enforcement agencies from across the country - as close as Arapahoe County and as far as Oregon - attended the funeral. Dozens of cop cars filled the parking lot of the church, where two fire trucks hoisted a large American flag into the air. Bagpipes preceded the delivery of Parish's casket, which was draped by the American flag. Men in uniform carried it into the church with family members in tow. With every step forward, ceremonial guards lining the walkway gave a slow and synchronized salute.

"I've been to 20 or 25 of these," said Douglas County Commissioner Lora Thomas, a former Colorado State Patrol major. "They get sadder every time."

An estimated 5,000 people were seated in the church. A blue hue filled the auditorium and on the stage, spotlights illuminated blown-up photos of Parrish, his wife Gracie and their two young daughters.

Through tears, Gracie Parrish promised to raise her daughters in "a home that bleeds blue." She read aloud a letter that she wrote to Parrish - whom she called her soulmate, hero and best friend. In the past, she would often write him letters of encouragement and emails filled with dreams and words of affirmations, she said.

"This is a letter that I never thought I'd write," Gracie Parrish said as she wept. "It's a letter that I hope my girls can read one day and know every ounce of love I have for their daddy."

Parrish was born in Nashville, Tennessee, said his father Zackari Parrish II, who described his son to the auditorium filled with officers and family members. As a child, he loved water sprinklers. He could make everyone laugh. He played baseball until he bought a guitar and started writing music.

And he loved his role as a police officer. Parrish had been with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office for seven months and had previously served more than two years with the Castle Rock Police Department.

The most important part of Parrish's life, his father said, was his faith.

"He enjoyed life," Parrish II said. "And the reason he enjoyed life is because he had Jesus in his heart."

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock took the stage to commend Parrish for his service as a deputy. When he listened to Parrish's body camera audio from the Dec. 31 shooting, Spurlock said Parrish "never once used a foul word, raised his voice or used a derogatory term."

Instead, he pleaded with the suspect, begging, "Let me help you," said Spurlock.

"I've never heard a more calm voice in a call like that," he said. "It's up to us to remember him and to be like him."

Spurlock honored Parrish with a medal of valor for his courage and bravery. And a position on the Douglas County Regional SWAT team will forever be held by Parrish, he said.

As the service came to a close, a muffled radio call played throughout the church. The voice on the other end repeatedly called out Parrish's radio number: 1721.

"Deputy Zackari Parrish," the voice said, "may you rest in peace knowing that your strength lives on in your wife, your legacy will be carried out through your daughters, and that your honor will continue on with all of us.

"1721, you are clear for end of watch. Thank you for your service and rest easy, sir, we have the watch from here."

Zackari Parrish, Douglas County Colorado, Highlands Ranch Colorado, Douglas County Sheriff's Office, Alex DeWind


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