Deputy Daniel McCartney’s senseless death late Sunday night reminds us there’s nothing routine about police work.
No doubt when the 34-year-old Yelm resident began his last shift, he anticipated returning home to his wife and three sons, ages 4, 6 and 9. He didn’t figure to be the seventh line-of-duty death in the history of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.
But like every other law enforcement officer across America, McCartney accepted the danger that came with his badge.
The word “courage” gets tossed around too lightly these days, but it fits squarely on the shoulders of McCartney and cops like him who answer frantic 911 calls, like the one dispatchers received Sunday, then rush to help without hesitation.
The Navy veteran responded to the home invasion call, chased two suspected burglars and exchanged gunfire. One man was found dead near the home. Another was unwittingly arrested on unrelated warrants Monday but later tied to McCartney’s killing.
When an officer is killed in the line of duty, there’s a temptation to pull out the soapbox, to use his ultimate sacrifice as a pawn to score political points, perhaps to roll out statistics about gun control or pithy slogans about which lives matter.
Now is not that time.
Washington legislators who opened their 2018 session this week will pick up a debate about police use of deadly force, and whether to loosen legal protections that keep officers from being prosecuted. It’s a debate that can’t be ignored, now that a police accountability initiative is headed for the November ballot.
But now is not the time for that either.
Now is the time to recognize McCartney’s life and contributions, of which there were many. Already, stories of what he meant to his family, colleagues, church and friends at the Yelm CrossFit gym paint a picture of a man whose absence reverberates deeply.
“If you had a problem, if you were in a crisis, you would want him there to handle that,” said gym co-owner and Olympia Police Officer Shon Malone.
We didn’t have the privilege of knowing McCartney, but hearing stories from his short life remind us of something Winston Churchill once said: “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all others.”
It’s the undimmed quality chronicled in the deaths of Tacoma Police Officer Jake Gutierrez, shot in a domestic standoff in 2016; Lakewood’s fallen four (Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Tina Griswold, Ronnie Owens, and Greg Richards), who were ambushed in a coffee shop in 2009; and Pierce County Deputy Kent Mundell, also gunned down in 2009, while responding to a dispute between brothers at a home north of Eatonville.
By saluting their courage and service, we honor those same attributes in all law enforcement who daily defend the public from those who would do them harm.
When the South Sound loses one of its protectors, it shakes us to the core.
When a local hero is struck down in the line of duty, distinctions of conservative and liberal fall away.
When an officer receives a fatal bullet protecting people he’s never met, we are all blue.