KELSO, Washington — When an officer dies in the line of duty there are no solutions to the pain that runs through that officer’s family, their department or community, but there is support.
For law enforcement who have experienced the loss of a fellow officer, the murder of Cowlitz County Deputy Justin DeRosier has opened wounds that will never truly heal.
“We are holding the DeRosier family close to our hearts right now and the men and women of the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office,” said Sgt. Eric Bunday of the Hillsboro Police Department.
Along with police officers across Oregon and Washington, Sgt. Bunday is wearing his mourning badge to honor the life of DeRosier. He works closely with those impacted by a line of duty death and helps others though his own experiences after losing a friend and colleague in law enforcement
“To know that one of your friends, one of your colleagues, someone that you had coffee with, that you had lunch with, that you responded on calls with – was taken from you so suddenly and so violently -- that's, in a lot of ways, the ultimate gut punch for a police officer,” Bunday said.
A source of support comes from the Behind the Badge Foundation based out of Seattle, Washington. Right now, the organization is providing support to the DeRosier family and Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office.
“A line of duty death is sudden, it’s tragic, it’s unexpected. It takes an enormous toll on a family, on an agency and on a community,” Bunday said. “And so, an organization like Behind the Badge Foundation is there to come alongside that community and help support them through it.”
The Behind the Badge Foundation provides immediate and ongoing support to families, agencies and communities in times of critical need. They serve survivors of a line of duty death, whether that be spouses, children, parents, siblings, significant others, in-laws, affected co-workers and chaplains.
Behind the Badge also connects individuals and families with a broad network of ongoing support to provide comfort and security when it’s needed most.
“They apply the experiences that they've learned from their own experience to help support this agency through their tragedy and more importantly to support this family through this tragedy,” Bunday said.
Law enforcement report much higher rates of depression, PTSD, and other anxiety related mental health conditions than the general public, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. Specific mental health support becomes even more critical when an officer is killed in the line of duty.
“Emotional support is a huge thing,” Bunday said. “Having folks there that can look you in the eye and say, ‘I know what you're going through because I've been there.’ That's huge.”
Bunday does just that to help others because he too has lost a friend in the line of duty.
“When you're closely connected to one of these tragedies it’s like your original normal ceases to exist.” Bunday said.
More than eight years ago, his friend and colleague Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter was shot and killed when he was called to a local stereo shop where a man was acting suspiciously.
“In a lot of ways there have been days where it's been January 5, 2011 all over again,” Bunday said.
Painter's killer Daniel Butts was sentenced just weeks ago on March 26 in Columbia County.
This line of duty death is even more difficult for Bunday, not only because Cowltiz and Columbia Counties border each other, but also because Chief Painter’s killer, Brian Butts, was related to the man who killed Deputy DeRosier.
“This brings up a lot of, a lot of feelings, emotions, that I went through eight and a half years ago when Ralph was killed,” Bunday said.
The impact of a line of duty death never truly goes away. Bunday tells KGW that it is not a matter of moving on, but rather moving forward. That is why he says it is so important for groups like the Behind the Badge Foundation to be there for the DeRosier family and Cowlitz County Sherriff’s Office in this critical time and for the community to rally its support around them as well.
“We’re the thin blue line, we’re there to help protect the community, to keep people safe, but at the end of the day we’re human beings,” Bunday said. “Our hearts hurt just like everybody else’s does and when one of us falls in the line of duty it’s a death in our family. I didn’t personally know Justin DeRosier, but he was my brother and that’s a death in my family.”
If you would like to support Deputy Justin DeRosier’s family, there is a memorial fund set up through U.S. Bank. The fund will be used to help cover memorial expenses. If there are any donations remains after the memorial costs are covered, money will go directly to the DeRosier family.
For anyone wishing to donate, the U.S. Bank account information is:
Account Name: Deputy Justin DeRosier Memorial Fund
Account Number: 153569437830
Routing Number: 125000105
Donations may also be completed in person at the Cowlitz County Administrative Building, or checks may be mailed to:
Attn: KayLee McKay
207 Fourth Avenue North, Room 308
Kelso WA 98626
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