Daniel McCartney was so strong and good-hearted that he held superhero status among those who knew him.
The 34-year-old Pierce County sheriff’s deputy loved fiercely, spoke kindly and smiled always.
He could deadlift 445 pounds and jump 50 inches high.
He never raised his voice and treated everyone with respect, even those he put behind bars.
“You become a hero when you do something with every ounce of your heart, your soul, your body, and those efforts make a difference for someone else,” said Doug Cotton, a pastor at Harbor City Church in Aberdeen. “We came here today to honor a hero.”
On Wednesday, more than 3,000 people packed into Olson Auditorium at Pacific Lutheran University to honor McCartney, who was shot and killed Jan. 8 after responding to a home invasion robbery near Frederickson.
His friends and family spoke of McCartney as a doting father, brave law enforcement officer, dedicated Crossfit coach, well-rounded athlete and caring friend.
Chief Petty Officer Drew Senary, who met McCartney in 2003, recalled how McCartney set a good example when they served in the U.S. Navy.
Instead of going to the bars, they went sightseeing. McCartney didn’t cuss, didn’t watch risque movies and comforted new seamen who were learning the ropes.
“He set such a standard and presence with everything that he did,” said Christian Gidlof, his best friend. “He made everyone around him better.”
McCartney read to children at the library, participated in Shop with a Cop, brought his wife a cup of coffee after every shift and pushed fellow members at Crossfit Yelm to lift harder.
No matter how many roles he held, McCartney most cherished being a father.
He tucked his three sons into bed every night. He read to them in the morning before leaving for work. He wrestled with them, held Nerf gun battles, taught them to fish and throw a baseball and ensured they knew God.
“Daniel’s proudest achievement was marrying his wife and having three sons,” said his aunt, Judy Mersky.
McCartney became a police officer after leaving the Navy, spending the first six years of his career as one of 18 sworn officers at the Hoquiam Police Department.
That’s where he earned the nickname “Animal,” because he would dig into a case and not stop.
“Daniel drove himself to make a big ripple in a small pond everyday,” Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers said.
McCartney joined the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department three years ago and was assigned to the Mountain Detachment.
His partner, Deputy Luke Baker, said McCartney showed courage and strength on every call. He could outrun and outmuscle his partner in restraining suspects, and spoke up when he thought Baker was being rude to suspects.
It was after responding to a 911 call of the home invasion robbery near Frederickson that McCartney was fatally shot by one of two masked men running away.
He was able to fire off five shots at the robbers before radioing dispatchers that he’d been hit.
“He lost his life striving to protect the lives of others,” Sheriff Paul Pastor said. “He was true to the calling that he chose.
“It’s not just that he stepped forward and put on a badge, it’s how he wore the badge, it was with the honor and respect that he wore it. It was with the values and ethics he carried onto duty as he worked.”
The respect McCartney commanded in the law enforcement field could be seen in the thousands of solemn faces that came from as far as Canada, New York and Texas to honor the fallen deputy.
A procession with more than 650 police and fire vehicles left Joint Base Lewis-McChord about 11 a.m. and wound its way to PLU, passing hundreds of people lining the streets to pay their respects.
Bruce Holmberg of University Place works in security and has family that serves as law enforcement. He watched the procession from near the north gate of JBLM.
“I look at (law enforcement) the same way I look at the military,” said Holmberg, who served in the Navy. “They’re our line of defense for our community. … It’s important to show that we love them and care about them.”
Kellie Malcolm of Puyallup watched the procession with her youngest daughter in 2009 after four Lakewood police officers were killed. She was so moved by the experience she brought two of her daughters to watch Wednesday’s procession.
“I wanted them to come out and experience and show their support for the family,” Malcom said. “These people do so much for us.”
Adam Ferriss of Puyallup stood outside the auditorium as the procession neared.
“I want to show that the community pulls behind law enforcement in their darkest hour,” he said.
Uniformed officers lined up outside the auditorium door as six pallbearers rolled the flag-draped casket down the corridor. White-gloved hands slowly rose in salute as they passed. They remained at attention as the family, with red roses pinned to their lapels, filed into the auditorium.
Floral arrangements and personal items were on display around McCartney’s casket.
His weighted barbell sat out front with three small dumbells, the weights his sons — Tytus, Tate and Traxton — once curled alongside their dad.
There also was a mountain bike, guitar, Bible, video game, sports gear, Navy cap, SWAT uniform and photos of McCartney with his family.
A deputy guarded the mementos overnight at the request of McCartney’s boys.
A video of McCartney’s life projected onto a large screen showed him as a red-headed child hamming it up, kneeling on a football field, holding a banner asking his wife to marry him, beaming at each of his sons the day they were born, lifting heaving weights, flexing in a Batman shirt, sitting with his boys in a patrol car.
Toward the end of the service, buglers played taps. An officer rang a bell 21 times to honor McCartney. An honor guard ceremoniously folded a flag that was privately presented to McCartney’s wife of 13 years, Cierra.
The traditional last radio call played over the loudspeakers as a dispatcher called McCartney’s number — 484 — and received no answer.
“484 out of service,” the dispatcher said. “Gone but not forgotten.”
The Sheriff’s Department has found a way to make sure that’s the case.
At the request of McCartney’s sons, a new German shepherd K-9 has been renamed Dan.
“I’m putting every bad guy in Pierce County on notice,” Baker said. “Dan is still coming for you.”
Staff writer Craig Hill contributed to this report.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653