DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colorado — With her two young daughters by her side, Gracie Parrish’s voice trembled as she pledged to honor the memory of her husband, who was killed responding with other sheriff’s deputies to a call on Sunday in a Denver, Colorado, suburb.
“And I will raise these girls to love you,” she said as she wept during a candlelight vigil for her husband, slain Douglas County sherriff’s deputy Zackari Parrish.
Parrish was shot and killed by Matthew Riehl, an Army reservist who suddenly opened fire on the deputies who were in his apartment responding to the call, authorities said. Riehl, 37, died in a shootout with a tactical team that went into his apartment. Four other deputies and two civilians were wounded.
During the memorial service Monday at Mission Hills Church in Littleton, Colorado, where Parrish’s family attended, mourners listened to one of Parrish’s favorite songs — “Hills and Valleys,” a Christian tune — before fellow officers and family members shared stories about the 29-year-old deputy’s passions and the people he loved.
“It means so much to hear your stories, and to hear about Zack because that’s what I’m clinging onto right now,” Parrish’s wife said, according to CNN affiliate KDVR. “So, I want to hear about him and I want to soak it in.”
Parrish’s sister-in-law said he coined her nickname — Lolo.
She said she felt his presence more than once since his death, most recently in the car when she and her husband heard one of Parrish’s favorite songs.
“And I kept thinking, ‘Zack, how are we going to get through this? I hate knowing you were hurt, ‘ ” she said.
She said she heard her slain brother-in-law talk to her in a whisper.
“‘It’s going to be okay Lolo. I’m going to be okay,'” she said she heard him say.
Three large photos of Parrish — two with his family and one in his uniform — were at the front of the church.
Parrish worked for the Castle Rock, Colorado, police department for several years before joining Douglas County, Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said.
“I can tell you, without a doubt, that he wanted to serve his community. He always did it with respect,” the sheriff said.
That commitment was evident during the disturbance call Parrish responded to on Sunday.
“He went to the call to help someone who killed him. He went there to help that guy … a guy who was troubled,’ Spurlock said. “And Zack knew that. And I was able to hear that in Zack’s voice on his body camera when he was trying to talk to this guy. Zack wasn’t being aggressive.”
Paul Smith said he was a nervous Castle Rock rookie officer who Parrish befriended. The slain deputy would show up on calls Smith was handling alone to guide the younger officer and “just kind of disappear into the shadows,” the Castle Rock officer recalled.
“It made me look good to my supervisors. It made me look good to my team,” Smith said. “Really, it was just him helping me out.”
Matt Fellows, a Castle Rock officer who went to the police academy with Parish, said the slain deputy had a strong work ethic.
Even as his shift neared its end, Parrish would be busy on the roads making traffic stops. He often quipped, “someone’s going to jail tonight,” Fellows recalled, as mourners chuckled. “By golly, he made that happen,” Fellows said,
He said Parrish “made me a better person.”
“He made me a better cop because he put 10 hours into a 10- hour shift no matter what,” Fellows said.
Mission Hill’s pastor, Craig Smith, said the slain deputy “had a faith in Jesus.” Parrish appeared to pass his faith onto his children.
One of Parrish’s daughters “went back and forth several times yesterday between ‘Daddy’s not coming home’ and ‘But Daddy’s with Jesus,'” the pastor recalled.
“I saw a small child who took very real hope in that. Those were not just words that she was parroting. Those where words that she took tremendous comfort in,” he said.